The Challenge of Creating a Domestic Hemp Fiber Industry
June 26, 2015
by Summer Star Haeske, EnviroTextiles
There is much to the reasoning as to why there is not and will not be hemp fabric made from US hemp in the US for a long time from now. To give you the basics, the US does not have the processing needed for hemp’s natural fiber, the hemp fiber cannot run on the cotton or woolen systems. Then when you look at the hemp, we are going to have to have hundreds of farmers growing the “right” variety of fiber hemp crop to have enough fiber to even try to then justify the 4-5 facilities needed to process and produce the fabrics.
For example, even with the right kind of fiber hemp, when you look at the hemp plant, 80% of it is stalk, well within the stalk only the outter ribbon contains the fiber, so we are now down to approx 8-10% fiber, then when grading out the fiber we are left with approx 4-6% that is textile grade fiber, so in the end we have a 4-6% of the plant material yield. Then it would take approx 150-250 million dollars to build the 4-5 facilities needed to have state of the art natural fiber processing.
Not only is our nation is the early stages and cannot federally grow any more then a “research crop” for 10 acres or less but the feasibility for our nation or any investor is a giant NO GO for hemp fabrics. Now I can can you that I especially would love to have our fabrics being made in the US, but because of all the above issues to do so it does not make any sense nor would it be a good decision for anyone or our nation to focus on this and think it would get a hemp industry off the ground for the US.
Instead the US has many other opportunities for hemp. Also, when you look at the global positioning of hemp today, and keep in mind I am referring to countries that are mass producing and have industrialized their hemp markets, China is known for textiles, always has and always will be, Canada has put a place on the map for the seed oil for food and body care, northern Europe is leading the way for hemp building, Australia has been working toward plastics and composites and the US can come in with other market needs and components to only fill a demand for even larger and nastier products that desperately need this alternative, but also give our farmers the higher values and justifies them even growing hemp and gives us a foundation to fill global request for these products and get the US back on the global exchange.
I often end by saying: “Hemp for our farmers, Hemp for our workers, Hemp for healthy products for us and Hemp for the world exchange”. Because that is what makes sense and is possible and can create a truly sustainable future for all. One day there will be some very limited hemp fabrics produced here when we have some fiber that can be mechanically processed, when this does happen they will be very high price point, they will be limited to how much will be available and they will only be heavy weight fabrics, no fine yarns will be achieved this way.
It is also very important for everyone to understand that if you go out there asking or demanding hemp fabric made in the US right now, you will be the requesting party that will have the big bad boys come in and buy any hemp to send to synthetic factories and turn our hemp into Viscose! This has already happened in the US and is the only way the US can make a hemp fabric right now……! (unless you want to hand process, hand spin and hand loom these heavy weights yourself; there is no other way.)
We cannot allow this to happen and it is the complete opposite of what we are trying to achieve on top of the fact that we unfortunately in the US do not have labeling laws to even tell you. They have and will make hemp Viscose in the US and call it hemp fabric and never have to tell you it is Viscose. It is going to be up to consumers to know how to tell the difference! Imagine that, here were have finally come so far and I now find myself having to educate people on the difference between a true natural fiber and a regenerated and that there is synthetic hemp now! Not fair, but we all knew it was coming….. now to not let it stand. I hope this helps explain everything as to why things are the way they are. I can tell you that the Chinese have been growing and using hemp for over 8,000 years and our facilities in China are impeccable. It is truly heaven on earth. We do not want to find the US trying to compete with nations that are light years and just enough years ahead of us to where we will never compete and the world need more natural fiber no matter what.
We are running out of resources and building materials, plastics and fuel sources are the focus we need to take for the US. We do have more and more clients in Canada and the US bringing in our hemp yarns and weaving here, but then you still have the expense of any other dying, washing etc and again, this is a whole other story….. By supporting the countries and the people that have paved the way, supports hemp and continues giving the momentum we need here to keep moving forward. There is nothing better then offering a hemp product, made in the US from imported hemp to show off how great it is and why we need to keep all moving here for the US.