Rural Ireland has been faced with many challenges over recent decades, notably through the decline of traditional industries and associated job losses; through the emigration of many of our educated young people; and through poor connectivity in terms of transport and telecommunications infrastructure.

The dairy sector has survived the overall downturn in the rural economy but other sectors such as pig, sheep and beef have experienced much economic difficulty. The upcoming uncertainty around Brexit has served to highlight the vulnerability of these sectors with beef farmers now in crisis mode.

There is now a huge urgency to respond to these challenges in a manner that is sustainable for these rural communities, the wider public and the environment.

Industrial hemp has seen a huge growth surge in many countries around the world in the past ten years with farmers in parts of the USA being given a huge life line with the ability to diversify from loss making tillage operations on large parcels of land to a most profitable industrial hemp operation. While much debate has raged on medical cannabis the real truth behind the potential of industrial hemp is being missed.

The Irish Hemp Co-op was set up to take on this opportunity and with over six hundred acres of hemp produced by its members in 2019 , is now in a very strong position to find real and growing markets for its produce as the economies of scale allow places it in a stronger negotiating position with interested consumers and market leaders.

Under utilised land in many of Irelands rural economies is most ideal for the hemp crop. The attractiveness of ‘trialing’ this new industry is that the crop can be sown in Spring , harvested in Autumn and the land can revert back to traditional use again if required. This represents a low risk hurdle for many farmers who have witnessed or experienced many other failed diversifications over the past twenty years.

Sowing and harvesting methods have improved through the work of the early pioneers into this Irish industry. Solutions for Irish crops and terrain were needed and these are now established and can be further fine-tuned to allow larger take up of this opportunity and thereby creating new markets with this increased volume of material.

While the 2019 season has lead to increased acreage of the crop and new outlets for the by products , Government intervention to support the 2020 season will be the key to establish a robust alternative for Irelands Rural economies .

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€100 per year

Becoming a member of the Hemp Cooperative of Ireland means you are joining the largest members organisation dedicated to the development of the Hemp Industry in Ireland. Membership provides a numbers of benefits including access to technical and agronomy advice.

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