UN Study Recommends Global Hemp Trade Tracking to Support Developing Countries

New research has determined that trade data disparities are impeding hemp trade globally and withholding environmental and economic benefits for developing countries. The research, carried out by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), involved all countries around the globe.

In the report, Marco Fugazza wrote that a systematic approach to help measure global trade in hemp products would close the gap between national and global classifications for hemp outputs. Fugazza, a UN economist, explained that this inconsistency hindered policymakers’ ability to come up with strategies to harness industrial hemp’s economic potential and also impacted understanding of global trade dynamics. He added that an international effort to measure hemp trade flows could especially benefit nations in Asia and South America, as their hemp industry was burgeoning.

According to the report, combined national customs data showed that in 2022, the export value of hemp products added up to about $213 million. This differs significantly from data released by the UN Comtrade database, which recorded trade valued at $46 million in the same year. UN commodity trade statistics, or Comtrade in short, utilizes global classifications for hemp products.

The disparity is mainly because Comtrade’s figures only include semiprocessed and raw hemp yard and fiber, excluding food manufactured from hemp grain and finished products. National export figures estimate total trade of the excluded products adds up to $112 million.

In a press release distributed when it introduced the study, UNCTAD explained that the true scale of the international hemp market was underestimated because the global harmonized classification system didn’t include a significant portion of items traded. The report also highlighted that while national hemp-product classifications were more extensive, their coverage had some hindrances. For instance, they didn’t account for outputs for hemp with high potential for sustainability such as hemp biochar and hurd for hempcrete. Hemp biochar contributes to sustainable agriculture by absorbing CO2 and improving the health of soil. On the other hand, hempcrete is a nature-friendly material used for building.

Currently, Canada is the leading exporter of hemp grain globally. With regard to exports of semiprocessed and raw hemp products, the Netherlands, Spain and France dominate the market. The study also determined that China was a huge player in the market for hemp yarn. In addition, the study found that about 60 nations exported hemp between 2019 and 2020, with one-third being developing countries. Overall, nations in the European Union, China and Canada dominate hemp exports globally.

The enhanced tracking being advocated for by the UN could expose market participants in diverse regions around the world to business opportunities with established enterprises such as Curaleaf Holdings Inc. (CSE: CURA) (OTCQX: CURLF) that may be looking to diversify their product line-ups, especially in the area of medical products.

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