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Hemp / Cannabis growers: The sector has great prospects in the Baltic region

Both the United States and many European countries rapidly conquer new niche markets, opening up good business prospects for both growers and the processing industry. 

On December 4, Baltic Hemp Conference was held, where experts from several countries analyzed the development prospects of the hemp industry in the region. It was an online conference organized by the Latvian Industrial Cannabis Association jointly with Meta Advisory.

Latvia has advantages, and also challenges, in terms of cannabis development prospects. Latvia is one of  the four European Union countries where cannabis can be grown for any industrial use, but so far inflorescences could not be processed for food use, for example, says Guntis Vilnitis, Chairman of the Board of the Latvian Industrial Hemp Association. Guntis Vilnītis sees an opportunity, for example, to create space for entrepreneurs who would produce semi-finished products for export, using supportive legislation.

Latvia’s strength is its knowledge of growing hemp, as well as some strong varieties of hemp seeds to be preserved. The challenges lie in disorganized legislation.

There are also opportunities to develop new products and recipes. One of the disturbing factor is the weak cooperation, and not very large volumes, so that they would be interesting outside the borders of Latvia. For example, there is Agro Pro in Lithuania, where Lithuanians have managed to combine knowledge with investment, but Latvia lacks serious processing space and investment in the sector. Latvia’s strength is its knowledge of growing hemp, as well as some strong varieties of hemp seeds to be preserved. The challenges lie in disorganized legislation. Today across Europe the problem  is that Europe does not protect its market: the Czech Republic sells Canadian oil, and Asia brings fiber to Europe at a cheaper price. The cost of European products is relatively high. Hemp protein and peeled seeds are more expensive than nuts, peanuts, so good advertising is needed to promote the market for hemp products, emphasizes Guntis Vilnītis.

Ago Siiners, the head of the Estonian company Perfect Plant OÜ, says that at the beginning of its operation in 2005 it has been difficult to find support for the processing of hemp fiber, so the company has focused on growing seeds. Fiber processing requires other equipment, that is currently limited in Latvia and in the Baltics in general, this is also emphasized by Rolands Keišs from Farm “Kotiņi”. In Estonia, the volume is about 2,500 hectares per year (2019 data). Over the last 10 years, Estonia has increased its size from a few 100 hectares per year to 3,000 hectares per year since 2015, thanks to increased knowledge and contacts.

Currently, the most popular products in Estonia are hemp seeds, flowers, “nuts”, proteins, fibers, cosmetics based on hemp oil. A protein powder plant is currently under construction, and a cannabinoid extraction plant is also under construction. Ago Siiner sees that protein powder has great growth potential.

The Lithuanian representative predicts that the capacity of the Baltic market could reach up to 50,000 hectares per year.

Thomas Danisevičius from the Lithuanian company Allive Europe UAB says that there are about 250 larger and smaller cannabis farms in Lithuania. In 2021, Lithuania plans to process 5,500 hectares of organically grown cannabis. Thomas Danisevics sees great opportunities in the development of cannabis, but the biggest concern is disorganized legislation, support is needed for the legalization of complete crop processing.

The Lithuanian representative predicts that the capacity of the Baltic market could reach up to 50,000 hectares per year. At the end of November, the UN and the European Commission announced that cannabidiol (CBD) had finally been removed from the list of drugs and was classified as food, creating ample business opportunities in the production of various products.

In Latvia, hemp is currently grown on 1,000 hectares. One third is grown as fiber yeast (fibers and stems), as seeds – nuts about 40%, for mixed use (horticulture, nuts, leaves, inflorescences) – about 30%.

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