Any industry’s ability to commercialize and scale depends on government policies, as well as the stakeholders of that industry. The Hemp industry in India has progressed from a nascent to a revolutionizing industry, with the increased awareness and acceptance of hemp products in recent years.
On November 15, 2021, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) issued a notification stating, “The hemp seed, hemp seed oil, and hemp seed flour shall be sold as food or used as an ingredient in a food for sale according to conforming requirements”.
With the inclusion of hemp seeds in the FSSAI, more businesses will enter the hemp space, contributing to the global hemp industry’s rapid growth. Many food items containing hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are expected to hit the market in the coming years, increasing availability across the food sector and providing customers with a variety of healthful food options. If industry projections are correct, the global hemp industry will reach a new high in the next five years.
Vijaya, also known as Bhanga and cannabis, is a herbal medication that is widely utilized by Ayurvedic practitioners to treat a wide range of ailments and lifestyle conditions. Ayurveda acknowledges the use of cannabis leaves in the production of Ayurvedic medications as a branch of medicine. Only a few enterprises have an Ayush license to make hemp that is sold to merchants, due to fact that the supply of hemp leaves is tightly and strictly controlled by the government.
Start-ups in the Hemp industry
According to a report released in February 2020 by Grand View Research, the global industrial hemp market is predicted to increase at a compound annual rate of 15.8 percent from 2020 to 2027, reaching $15.26 billion in 2027. India contributes less than 0.1 percent of the global hemp market at the moment. Nonetheless, Asia Pacific dominated the industrial hemp market in 2019, accounting for 32.6 percent of the total market share. Hemp cultivation and exports are well-established in China. Growing demand for hemp oil and fibers in the automotive, construction, food and beverage, personal care, and textile industries are among the primary reasons driving the industrial hemp market’s expansion.
In recent years, a slew of Indian cannabis firms has arisen, concentrating on pharmaceuticals, textiles, edibles, cosmetics, and accessories. According to media sources, the country currently has over 30 hemp start-ups. Bombay Hemp Company (Boheco), one of the earliest in the sector, is funded by Ratan Tata and Sequoia Capital MD Rajan Anandan, among others. Boheco, an agro-based firm attempting to mainstream hemp in agriculture and sustainable living, has been a key player in the country’s ongoing hemp evolution. It also works with around 100 farmers in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and is a significant provider of raw material to other hemp businesses. Health and wellness goods account for the majority of the company’s income, with hemp-blend clothes and accessories accounting for the remainder. The company, which is more than eight years old, is still facing numerous problems, including selling its products on e-commerce platforms, raising awareness, and changing consumer perception.
Many states, including Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir, are considering developing a hemp industry on a local level, but the same kind of push is needed at the federal level, as this global trillion-dollar industry has the potential to create many jobs and aid in local development.
Hemp Horizons, another start-up, has received seed funding of Rs 2 crores from Mumbai Angels Network and Angel List. It is a seed-processing company registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and accredited for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). It was founded in 2017 by Rohit Shah, Kartikey Dadoo, and Kanishk Yadav.
The illegality of Hemp in India
In India, the NDPS Act of 1985 makes it illegal to mix any of the two types of cannabis – charas, and ganja, with or without any neutral ingredient, or to make any drink from it. Cannabis was first declared prohibited in India after the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which classified cannabis as a controlled substance. In 1985, India enacted the NDPS Act, which outlawed the use of elements of the cannabis plant.
Hemp plants having a THC chemical makeup of less than 0.3 percent are currently allowed to be grown. Only the seeds, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant are allowed to be utilized for industrial or medical purposes under the Act, but the fruiting tops are prohibited.
Cannabis and cannabis resin were removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), decades after they were first added to the list. This ruling could have ramifications for medical marijuana use around the world. With India’s support, there’s a chance that the country may join the rising worldwide push to use cannabis for therapeutic and commercial purposes. This will result in the liberalization of cannabis policy, as well as a significant reduction in the number of restrictions currently in place on the plant.
Uttarakhand was the first Indian state to allow large-scale commercial growing of industrial hemp in July 2016. The Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) was granted a license to plant cannabis on 1,000 hectares. The IIHA is also working on a seed bank, with the goal of cultivating hemp for textile fiber on 10,000 hectares in five years. IIHA is a non-profit organization established in 2011 by Rohit Sharma, which works closely with the government to promote industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and use in India.
It is evident from the above discussion that there is massive potential in the Hemp industry. The FSSAI’s notification is appreciated and welcomed, which is only a start. It is hoped that more states come forward to regularise Hemp cultivation and allow its usage in regard to its multi-beneficial aspects. An Amendment in the existing NDPS Act is a need of the hour to give a push to several start-ups that are entering the Hemp space. India has the potential of being a hub for the global hemp supply if only our lawmakers take the right steps at the right time.
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