According to official estimates and projections from Denver-based analyst PanXchange, the 2022 hemp harvest in the United States is predicted to plummet by nearly half this year, from approximately 36,925 acres in 2021 to approximately 20,000 acres as all outputs are in decline.
PanXchange anticipates the 2022 flower harvest will be 6,400-6,800 acres, the fiber harvest will be 8,200-9,100 acres, and grain will be taken in from as few as 4,800 to 5,000 acres this year. Based on comparison numbers from the first-ever hemp crop report from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for the 2021 harvest season, this would imply a 46% decrease in harvested acres in 2022.
The dramatic drop, according to the Colorado-based exchange, is due to decreasing demand for CBD, with about 75% of CBD extract being used for delta-8 and delta-9 THC products. The dismal figures continue a troubling pattern that began in 2019 when US growers planted about 500,000 acres but harvested barely 120,000 as a global CBD market slump took hold. Since then, prices for CBD biomass have fallen by as much as 90% from historical highs, causing a stampede out of the industry that has driven down industrial hemp generally.
Looking For Hope
Despite the dismal statistics, many supporters remain optimistic about the possibilities of hemp fiber. Nonetheless, Panxchange’s high-end prediction of 9,100 harvested acres for bast fiber and hurd in 2022 is a 30% decrease from 2021, when around 12,700 acres were harvested, as described in the NASS report.
According to Boone, the drop was mostly due to difficult planting and growing circumstances, as well as competition from other conventional commodities commanding higher prices. Nonetheless, he believes there is a reason for optimism. Overall, the reduced area for fiber should not be depressing because there is still strong buyer demand, and processing capacity is scheduled to rise dramatically through 2023. Acreage will have a considerably greater impact on market mood after supply linkages are built.
With the obstacles that the CBD sector is facing, from USDA approval for human use to product quality and safety concerns, the future of hemp as an appealing crop for farmers to pursue remains a risky option. Desperate for money in the midst of the CBD downturn, several producers have resorted to using their hemp extract to create the contentious delta-8 THC derivative. Desperate producers are exploiting a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, which never meant for hemp derivatives to be used in psychoactive goods, in order to meet a market that is doubtful in the future. The molecule has been prohibited in certain jurisdictions, is restricted in others for marijuana-based delta-9 THC products, and has prompted warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Furthermore, the delta-8 loophole is anticipated to be addressed in the 2023 Farm Bill, significantly reducing its prospects.
What is happening in the hemp cultivation and processing businesses is a painful but necessary short-term series of “growing pains.” It has only been five years since hemp was legalized as a possible crop for farmers. Similarly, it has been more than a century since it was permitted to flourish as the multifaceted and beloved “super-plant” that it had been for ages prior to its initial ban.
The discrepancy between last year’s harvest and this year’s shows that a major flaw is being made by hemp manufacturers with their improper evaluation of supply and demand within the industry. This has resulted in a massive market correction which has wasted time and resources that could’ve been used to improve the industry instead.
Hopefully, as expertise among producers and end-users grows and improves, and greater legislation allows imaginative entrepreneurs to explore the plant’s tremendous potential, this valley in hemp’s new history will be a brief blip in an otherwise spectacular climb.
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