India has a long history of hemp cultivation, dating back to ancient times around 4000 BC. In recent years, the country has seen a resurgence of interest in hemp as a crop due to its many uses, in food, medicine, and textiles. In this article, we will take a detailed look at how hemp is processed in India, from cultivation to finished product.
The Cultivation of Hemp Plant
Hemp cultivation in India is largely concentrated in the northern states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. The crop is typically grown during the monsoon season, which runs from June to September. Hemp plants require well-draining soil, ample sunlight, and regular watering to grow properly to optimal levels. In India, hemp is grown for its various uses in food products, medicines, textile and paper.
The Harvesting of Hemp Plant
Once the hemp plants have matured, they are ready for harvesting. Hemp plants in India are typically harvested by hand, using traditional methods. The plants are cut down and the leaves and branches are stripped away, leaving the long, fibrous stalks. The stalks are then bundled together and left to dry in the sun.
The Processing of Hemp Plant
Once the hemp stalks have dried, they are ready for processing. Here are the three most common methods:
Retting: Retting is the process of breaking down the fibres in the hemp stalks. This is typically done by soaking the stalks in water or laying them out in a field to rot. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the weather conditions.
Scutching: Scutching is the process of removing the outer layer of the hemp stalks, known as the bark or bast. This is typically done using a wooden tool called a scutching knife, which is used to scrape away the outer layer. The bast is then separated from the woody inner core, known as the hurd.
Hackling: Hackling is the process of separating the fibres in the bast. This is done using a hackling board, a wooden board with metal pins sticking out of it. The bast is combed over the pins, separating the fibres and removing any remaining woody debris.
According to a report by the Hemp Industries Association, the hemp market in India is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.5% from 2020 to 2027. The report cites the increasing demand for hemp fibre and CBD oil as key drivers of the market growth.
In addition, the Indian government has taken steps to promote the cultivation of hemp. In 2018, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) released guidelines for the cultivation of industrial hemp in the country. The guidelines include recommendations for seed selection, soil preparation, and harvesting.
On November 15, 2021, FSSAI made a significant announcement declaring that hemp seeds and seed products are now recognized as a viable source of food. This means that hemp oil and seed products have been included in the list of edible items approved as food under the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Fifth Amendment Regulations, 2021, along with several other food items.
To conclude, Hemp processing in India is largely done using traditional methods, with a focus on fiber production. The country has a long history of hemp cultivation, and the industry is expected to continue growing in the coming years. As the demand for hemp products increases, it is likely that we will see more modern processing methods being adopted in India, including those for CBD oil extraction.