Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has said government policy is actively preventing the development of a viable hemp sector in the state, and that this in turn is depriving farmers of a viable extra income source.
He added that hemp can play an important role for Ireland to meet climate action and biodiversity obligations.
Carthy was speaking following the appearance of the Hemp Cooperative Ireland and the Hemp Federation of Ireland at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine where they outlined government obstacles that currently prevent the development of the sector.
Teachta Carthy said:
“At a time when many farming sectors have faced years of unsustainably low incomes, we must explore all options to assist farmers to remain on their farms.
“Hemp cultivation can help farmers supplement their income while also delivering a new method of sequestration more akin to forestry than traditional crops.
“However, representatives of the sector at the Oireachtas committee hearing outlined a government that seems intent on strangling the development of the sector, in opposition to European Union policy that is seeing burgeoning new agricultural enterprises developing across the continent.
“There is substantial evidence that if government reduces the red tape associated with the sector and provides training for interested farmers, this can be a significant area of growth that can be both profitable and environmentally beneficial.
“Sinn Féin support the position outlined by the sector that regulation of the hemp crop should primarily be a matter for the Department of Agriculture, which could liaise with other relevant agencies to deliver a clarity and consistency in policy as opposed to the multi-agency and contradictory approach taken by government in recent years.
“Uses for hemp include building material for houses, paper, clothes, heating oil and as a plastic alternative. There is also an increasing demand for CBD products, extracted by various approved methods from hemp, both in Ireland and internationally.
“None of these areas have been explored sufficiently. There is a need for a cross-departmental analysis as to how this sector can be developed in a safe and sustainable manner. But, it requires vision, ambition and imagination from government that has been sorely lacking.
“If we are to maintain our network of family farms across Ireland, then we need to be imaginative and supportive of all options, including hemp.”