Analysis of the Profitability of Hemp Cultivation for Paper

Fertig, M. 1995.
Wirtschaftlichkeitsanalyse des
Anbaus von Hanf (Cannabis sativa)
für die Papierproduktion. MSc-
thesis, Humboldt Universität, Berlin,
Germany. 80 pages + appendix.

    The study "Wirtschaftlichkeitsanalyse des Anbaus von Hanf (Cannabis sativa) für die Papier-produktion" analyses the feasibility of growing hemp for the pulp and paper industry in Germany.  The study shows that the option of pulping the whole hemp-stalk for the bulk market - substituting wood - does seem to be less attractive and may not be feasible economically.  Given the present market conditions, hemp has its best position in the specialty market.   This conclusion is very much in line with the study done in the Netherlands.   For example, Van Onna and Van den Ent (1994) also did a feasibility study on hemp cultivation for pulp and paper and came to the same conclusion.
    Fertig's results not only agree with other recent studies; they are also being confirmed in practice.  None of the pulp and paper industry based on wood has seriously considered the use of hemp, while paper manufactures using non-wood fibres such as flax, cotton linter and abaca have shown real interest.
    Furthermore, Fertig is realistic in positioning hemp against wood, concerning the environmental aspect.  He is right in saying that additional research on that item has to be done, before one can say hemp is more environmentally friendly as a substitute "wood".  The recommendation to choose a method in which the whole life cycle is analysed is very much in line with my opinion.  Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology can be recommended in that regard.
    Finally, Fertig emphasizes the necessity of considering not only the fibre of hemp, but also the exploitation of the other components.  Van Onna and Sengers (1994) have shown the huge market potential of these plant components.
    So, Fertig's publication contributes to a realistic positioning of hemp in the market and is worth mentioning.
    Before commenting further on the study, it is important to emphasize its focus, otherwise one might expect another approach to be followed and therefore different results of the study.  The reason to do the feasibility study is the increasing use of wood and the linked increase of environmental effects.  The feasibility study is therefore focused on the substitution of wood by hemp and this validates the approach Fertig has chosen.  If the feasibility study had wanted to assess the introduction of hemp as a new crop for farmers an additional option should have been taken into consideration, namely the market of specialty paper, pulps and (non-wood) fibres.  A few comments on the scientific approach of the study will be made.
    [1] Fertig proposes an integrated-chain approach, in which the market -the pulp and paper industry - dictates the possibilities for hemp.  Indeed, one can find costs and other items to consider each of the processes in the production chain - hemp cultivation, storage, transport, pulp production and paper production.  However, the integration of all these components into one overall picture is missing.  For example: pulp prices have been inventoried, but have not been used in the following calculations.  Point 3 illustrates this lack of integration.
    [2] Fertig also proposes a market driven approach.  In line with that announcement, he should take the market price as a starting point.  However, one can see that in the economic analysis Fertig uses 180 DM per ton hemp as a reference.   He bases that reference price on the market price of wood (120 DM per ton) and technical arguments.  I believe that, for a market driven approach one must consider some additional market aspects also.  The first to mention is that one must have in mind that using the whole stalk of hemp means that the (very) short core fibres are still present and that these fibres might need separate processing, causing higher costs in the processing step.  A second consideration has to do with the need of a guaranteed supply of fibrous raw material.  Regarding this item, the use (and world-wide availability) of wood can be considered as less risky than the use of hemp.  These two market considerations (and I'm sure there are more) make it doubtful whether 180 DM per ton hemp is a realistic reference.  Fertig didn't follow the market driven approach, by taking only the technical issues into consideration!
    Another (minor) point to think about is the justification of the integration of subsidies on hemp cultivation in a market-driven feasibility study, where the market (pulp and paper industry) is very reluctant to use agro-based fibres, due to the subsidy image of the agro sector.
    [3] One of the items that shows that integration of all components in the production chain has failed, is the item "scale of production".  Fertig shows a cost profile of CTMP pulp (for a 73,000 ton plant) and suggests that the production of hemp pulp is cheaper than the production of pulp based on wood.
    Furthermore, Fertig suggests that paper production based on hemp is not cheaper than wood-based paper production.  This conclusion is based on an approach that considers the costs of transport, of processing and paper making separately.   However, when one considers the items "production", "transport", "storage" and "processing" in relation to each other, one can conclude that the costs of producing hemp-based CTMP are higher than the costs of CTMP from wood!  Two of the determining factors will be discussed.
    [a] First is the factor "transport".  The area needed to supply a 73,000 ton plant is in the case of hemp much larger than in the case of a wood-based pulp plant.  One has to have in mind that hemp is to be grown as (only) one of the crops in a crop rotation, while wood is grown on large-scale plantations, sometimes just "in the back yard" of the pulp unit.  This results in higher transport distances for hemp than for wood, assuming a similar capacity of processing.   Therefore I seriously doubt whether a transport distance of only 50 km is realistic in the case of hemp and whether transport cost for hemp will decrease to the level of transport cost for wood.
    [b] Second is the cost of production of the fibrous raw material.   The production of hemp only is viable when the margin of hemp exceeds the margin of other arable crops.  Otherwise, the farmer will choose to grow the other arable crops.  When a large amount of hemp is needed not only the crops with the lowest margin have to be substituted, other crops with higher margins have to be substituted also.  Consequently, the larger the scale of processing, the higher the amount of hemp needed and the higher the costs of raw material will be.  Besides this, one has to consider that the substitution of only the least profitable crop is not realistic.   Often grain is the crop with the lowest margin, but the farmer must grow this crop due to crop rotation demands.
    Marieke J.G. Meeusen-van Onna


Nutritional and Medicinal Guide to Hemp Seed

Kenneth Jones, 1995.  Rainforest
Botanical Laboratory, Box 1793,
Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada
V0N 1V0. US$7.95, 60 p.

    From hemp’s wide range of possible products, only a few require little or no infrastructural support.  Basic products such as animal bedding or building materials are successful examples. Cannabis bio-mass for energy production, especially as a scavenging operation in an integrated manufacturing utilization scheme, is another such use of considerable, but under-realized, "low-tech" potential.  However, when all is said and done, it is utilization of the diminutive Cannabis seed as a food that poses the single most significant chance for direct economic return and social benefit.
    Nearly everyone in the hemp movement vaguely realizes that hemp seed is a source of good nutrition, but where can one seek the actual facts and figures?   Until publication of the "Nutritional and Medicinal Guide to Hemp Seed", this data was scattered throughout many different sorts and eras of literature.   Author Kenneth Jones has done an admirable job of compiling and interpreting this diverse data and integrating his efforts into one slim, well-referenced and nicely illustrated volume.  In this 60-page indexed paperback, some of the seeds’ more arcane uses in Chinese folk medicine are first reviewed, with the translation help of Norman Goundry, but it is the last two thirds of the book that provides its core value.   This section is divided into four chapters on protein nutrition for humans and other animals, as well as on the seed oil and its health implications.
    Mr. Jones is a talented general science writer and has competently handled an interesting topic, but he may not have a great depth of experience specific to hemp.  If this is the case, he is to be all the more congratulated, because it won’t be evident to most people.  However, there are some discrepancies apparent upon close inspection that, if corrected, would make for a better book.
    To start off, contrary to claim (p. 7), Cannabis is not a member of the Mulberry family (Moraceae) and has not been thought so, for quite some time.   It’s now classified into its own family (Cannabaceae), along with the genus Humulus ("hops").  It might also be mentioned, in the context of the same paragraph, that seed diameter, as well as length varies quite a bit, even more so than indicated in the text solely for the latter dimension.
    A few errors lead one to suspect that the author did not actually read some of the references cited.  In the first case, it was not a German researcher, as stated twice (p. 11 & p. 47), but an Austrian, Peter Rausch, who published observations concerning the superior skin-care (not skin-penetrating) properties of unsaturated fatty acid triglycerides in hemp seed oil.  His affiliation and location were appropriately displayed (albeit in German) in the original document. (Jones also uses the terms "cosmetics" erroneously in the second instance and "bodycare products" correctly in the first.)  Rausch’s comparison of hemp seed oil was made to a limited suite of somewhat more saturated plant oils also possibly employable as alternative skin emollients, not all other possible plant oils.  Flax seed oil, being as highly polyunsaturated as hemp oil, would probably work as well upon topical application, although it is possibly unsuitable due to its taste and smell.
    In the second instance of citation error, and more pointedly, the paper of Matsunaga et al., concerning cannabinoid levels in commercially available seed, is not published in Japanese as indicated (p. 53), but English, although the title of the journal is certainly anglicized Japanese.  This mistake will unnecessarily dissuade many from acquiring this important reference.
    Milder criticism can be made of the author’s throwaway speculation (p. 8) concerning the anaphrodisia of being "stoned".  It is trivial and specious and should be eliminated.  Of a slightly more serious nature is the rather generous reported (p. 27) hemp seed yields (1.2-1.5 tons/hectare), certainly not typical of normal harvests (0.5 to 1.0 ton/hectare).
    The 2:1 ratio quoted (p. 36) as optimal for fatty acid balance may or may not be true, but in any case, its awkward juxtaposition with the more often quoted 3:1 ratio, renders that sentence confusing.  The reported quantities of vitamins in hempseed (p. 22) is exaggerated by three orders of magnitude.  The reference cited is inadequate and probably a corrupted version of the original definitive article authored by Don Wirtshafter for the Bioresource Hemp symposium held in Frankfurt last year.  The claimed protein content of hemp seed (p. 48) is also inflated at 30%, 20-25% being more the case (p. 22).  The author apparently meant to say "crushed hemp seed cake", for which the former figure is correct (p. 29).  However, the idea that the "starving peoples" of the world will be fed (p. 47) with animal products derived from hemp feed, rather than this rich food directly, is nutritional nonsense, rather reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s famous quote.
    Lastly, as miscellaneous nit-picks, seed may contain "0.3% or less" THC (p. 12), but percentages are, of course, autonomous values and not subject to the absolute amounts measured: "(per 100 grams of seed)" is redundant.   In that same sentence (as well as pages 5 & 11), the word "narcotic" needs to be replaced with "psychoactive" or even "psychedelic".   Please folks, Cannabis is not and has never been a "narcotic".   The characterization of gout simply as "hereditary arthritis" (p. 7) is perhaps misleading.  The reference "18" citation (p. 17) is misapplied, referring to another subject entirely.  "Gamma" is misspelled twice as "gama" (p. 35).
    This "laundry list" of greater or lesser errors is correctable in the next edition, since a book of such value is sure to provoke a demand for many more printings.  Hopefully, the author will perfect and expand its solid foundation of information, done in comprehensive scope and admirable style.  Kudos are also deserved by photographer Geof Kime and by Rich Rawlings who designed the handsome format for a book (printed on 70% hemp paper) that Jeff Chilton of the Rainforest Botanical Laboratory should be proud to distribute (US distributor:  Homestead Book Co. Seattle, WA 206-782- 4532) at a decent CA$10.95 (US$7.95), postpaid (US$5.57 each for 2-10 copies).  Hemp shops, schools and activists will want to inquire about the attractive further discounts available for larger bulk purchases.

    D. W. Pate

Hemp & Co

F. Waskow: Hanf & Co.  Die
renaissance der heimischen
Faserpflanzen, published by Die
Werkstatt-AOL, Göttingen,
Lichtenau, 1995

    A new volume has been added to the German literature on hemp.  Only 40% of the book actually deals with hemp, the remainder being taken up by fibre flax, stinging nettles and kenaf.  The production of the two latter species is a complete novelty in Europe.  This reviewer is not competent to give an opinion on the whole book, so this review will concentrate on hemp, which also fits the profile of this journal.
    It is very difficult to form a positive picture of the book, since it is extremely similar in form to the Herer-Bröckers-Katalyse book entitled "Hemp", published in a new edition two years ago.  This in itself would not be a problem if it contained a lot of new information, but unfortunately, this is not the case.  To be fair, the much smaller size of the book (hemp is treated on a total of 80 pages) does not allow such a wealth of detail as was provided on 400 pages in the book's "big brother".  Nevertheless, the book does contain a certain amount of new information, in both the historical section (chiefly as regards Germany) and in the chapters on processing and technology, since literature and results from 1995 are also cited.  No book on hemp is free of a discussion of the plant as a source of drugs, though cultivated hemp has very little to do with this.  However, this is the first occasion when an author has made a distinction between stimulants and other drugs, [mistakenly] including drug Cannabis in the former category.
    As is frequently the case when popular books on hemp are written in non-hemp-growing countries, there are a number of objective errors and glaring deficiencies.  As regards taxonomy, for instance, hemp is classified in the Cannabaceae family on p.12 and in the Moraceae family on p. 56, while in fact, according to the latest classification it belongs to neither, but to the Cannabinaceae family.   The statement (p.20) that hemp was the most frequently cultivated crop in the first thousand years A.D. cannot possibly be true, since wheat, barley, rice and maize certainly took precedence.  This is one of the greatest errors in the book, though in other respects it is moderate and endeavours to free itself from the initial hemp euphoria and be realistic.
    However, the author falters when it comes to production statistics.   To start with, he makes no mention of Hungary, despite the fact that in 1988 the sowing area was still as high as 6000 hectares, with the highest yield average in Europe (9 t/ha).  Nor is it true that France has only grown hemp on a relatively large area for the last 8 years.  On the contrary, France is the only Western European country where hemp has been grown since the sixties on 4000-5000 hectares.  When discussing European production, the author seems to have something against Hungary, because it is the only Eastern European country he does not mention, although it has a 70-year tradition of breeding and the Hungarian varieties are some of the best in Europe. (In another context he does mention one Hungarian variety on p. 73).  In connection with the hemp gene bank in St. Petersburg he mentions 72 German varieties (!), although Germany has only ever had 4 or 5 varieties throughout its history.  Mistakes of this magnitude are inexcusable even in a popular work.
    Another objective error is that hemp seeds retain their germination ability for 5 years, whereas in fact they are unsuitable for sowing even in the third year.  He writes of Australia, or rather of Tasmania, as if hemp was cultivated there on large areas; the fact is that cultivation is banned and at most small-plot experiments are carried out, with special authorisation.  It is hardly worth wasting words and space on discussing US "production", when this has been banned partially for 60 years and completely for 25 years.  It is verging on the ridiculous to mention that experimental production was carried out in 1994 on 0.125 hectares (!).  It is an exaggeration to say that modern hemp varieties average 30 % fibre content; this is at most true of the best varieties.  Data indicating a fibre yield of 3.3 t/ha probably originate from a small-plot experiment, since this would be equivalent to a stem yield of 12 t/ha, which is the upper limit of the potential yield of southern hemp varieties in Germany.  The suggestion that when grown for seed a yield of 2 t seed/ha can be achieved is nothing but an illusion.
    The author is also mistaken in his estimation of the nutritional requirements of hemp, and contradicts himself in places.  On p. 58 it is stated that hemp requires 60-100 kg less fertiliser then other crops; while hemp is known to have a high nitrogen requirement.  At the same time the table on p. 62 indicates that under German conditions a total of 300-520 kg/ha of fertilizer is required, which is no less, or even more than that provided for other crops.  So which statement is true?  Is the reader to decide for himself?  I am not sufficiently familiar with soil conditions in Germany, but it seems unlikely that the best hemp soils are the podzol soils of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the pre-Alpine regions of Southern Bavaria.  The two regions are approx. 600 km apart in a N-S direction, as the crow flies, and it is highly improbable that the hemp soils follow the administrative boundaries. (see map on p. 60).
    In the Appendix (which is quite unnecessary, as it could have been included in the body of the book) discusses varieties ("Die Hanf-sorten").   This designation appears to indicate cultivars, i.e., improved varieties.   But it seems that the author is either unfamilar with the meaning of the term variety, or has become muddled, as he refers to fibre hemp, seed hemp and marihuana as "varieties".
    Finally, it is conspicuous and quite superfluous to include three tables, basically informing readers unfamiliar with the subject of the use of hemp, all containing much the same data on pages 59, 65 and 206 (Appendix).
    The general conclusion to be drawn from the chapter on hemp is that everyone would do better to stick to his own field and that, if he must write about biology and agriculture, he should have his manuscript reviewed by a professional.   Unfortunately, this step was omitted, so that even the slight virtue of the hemp chapter is dulled by the objective errors.  Such errors are probably not to be found in the discussion on paper manufacturing and other technologies.  I can only hope that the information on flax and the other fibre crops is more accurate.

     I. Bócsa