CBD production potential for £1bn market
Hemp is rich in Cannabidiol (CBD) which is becoming a huge industry in the UK, with £300m spent on it in 2019 by consumers. It is expected that this will increase to £1bn per year by 2024.
Although there are many British farmers cultivating industrial hemp, the majority of CBD is imported from Mainland Europe and the US, as British farmers are having to throw away the most lucrative part of their crop – the flowers and leaves.
Robert says: “Hemp is a really lucrative crop and, by not being able to utilise the entirety of the plant, British farmers are being placed at a disadvantage compared to our EU and US neighbours. In most EU countries it is lawful to extract from the whole hemp plant.
“This could be a closed supply chain, making and extracting our own CBD in the UK.
“A full commercial license allows cultivators in the UK to grow and distribute the entirety of the plant, be that for medical or pharmaceutical use. However, there are currently only two companies with a full commercial license in the UK.
“The first licensee was GW Pharmaceuticals, who obtained their licences around twenty years ago, and the UK is now one of the biggest exporters of medical cannabis because of this company. To give some idea of the revenue available here, GW Pharmaceuticals just got bought by an American company for $7.2bn.”
Recommendations for opening the market
“I’d like to see this UK restriction on the extraction of CBD be removed, ” Robert continues. “Why must we import CBD from overseas when we are perfectly capable of doing the extraction here?”
“The ideal situation would be a separate department, perhaps within DEFRA, managing cannabis cultivation for CBD and Hemp. I don’t expect that to happen rapidly, but there must be a sea change in the approach that the DFLU takes toward licensing application.”
Robert has other recommendations and he will be discussing this at the Agri-TechE event Farmer to Pharma.