The Ukraine Report: Farmers hope legislation passes for hemp production

What is the status of growing hemp in Ukraine?

Latifundist Media has partnered with us to provide boots-on-the-ground coverage.

A Ukraine-born farmer sold his business in Australia and headed back to his hometown of Cherkasy. The man left Ukraine in the early 1990s and returned only 20 years later. Before moving to Australia, he spent seven years in Latvia, working as a mechanical engineer in the civilian navy. He also spent some time in Cyprus and London.

“My father established a business in Ukraine — growing fruit seedlings. One day I got a call from him in Australia saying that he was retiring and needed to pass on the business and the 150 acres of land he had devoted his entire life to. I couldn’t leave the land that my father had been working on for 25 years. I sold my business and returned home. After all, I couldn’t buy 150 acres of land in Australia.”

In 2010, the farmer took over the business and became the director of his father’s breeding ground. Watching the instability in the seedling market, Yurii decided to look for other crops that would secure his business. Asparagus was one of them.

“I bought asparagus seeds in the US. I had problems with customs clearance because it turned out that asparagus cannot be imported into Ukraine as it is not listed in the state register. We managed to get it registered, and despite the obstacles, we got our first harvest in 2016. At first, the yield was low — from 7 to 25 bushels per acre. With each passing year, it has been rising. Today, we have a productive plantation of 50 acres, and another 25 hectares of seedlings.”

Asparagus is not the only niche crop that Yurii is growing. Two years ago, he set up the First Hemp Corporation in Ukraine. This farm aims to unite producers who grow and process hemp seeds. It currently consists of 5 companies. The idea of processing this particular crop arose amidst a decrease in the use of plastic in the world for packaging various products.

To promote this venture, Yurii and his partners have already built a plant for the primary processing of hemp straw.

“We have everything packed in plastic and if we replace it with paper, we will not have enough wood pulp for production. This environmental problem is ongoing, and we started researching different crops to process them into cellulose. This is how we came to hemp. The plant produces a lot of biomass and has a renewable resource, so we planted it and harvested in three months.”

Today, Yurii’s plant produces purified hemp fibre for further processing in various industries. It is a raw material for the production of paper, building materials, fabrics and plastic products. The farmer supplies hemp fibres for further production in Ukraine.

Ukrainian legislation strictly regulates the cultivation of industrial hemp. It requires a licence, which, according to Yurii Marchuk, is difficult but not impossible to get.

“Last year on December 21, the Parliament of Ukraine passed a bill on the legalisation of medical cannabis. There is a clear distinction between medical and industrial hemp. Now the law is pending the signature of the President. If everything goes well, it should come into force in six months. This gives us hope that we will actively start growing cannabis in Ukraine with a less stringent regulatory system.”

That report was powered by Latifundist Media, with USAID support provided through Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities (AGRO) Activity implemented in Ukraine by Chemonics International. For more information, visit their website or follow them on social media.