The hemp sector, if developed, can deliver a viable extra income source for farmers while also providing an environmental benefit, Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Matt Carthy has said.
However, the Government appears to be placing obstacles in the way of the development of this sector rather than delivering a roadmap for this industry, based on the reduction of red tape and through training for interested farmers, he said.
Carthy met with representatives of the Hemp Federation of Ireland, along with Cllr Pat Treanor, at the farm of Kama Hemp at Clones, Co Monaghan, this week.
Explore all options
“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 and comes at a much lower environmental cost than the intensification of their current practises.
“But, rather than support the sector, the Irish Government seems intent on placing obstacles in the way of its development,” Carthy said.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said that, instead, there is substantial evidence that if Government reduces the red tape associated with the sector and provide training for interested farmers, this can be a significant area of growth that can be both profitable and environmentally beneficial.
“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 health 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,” he said.
He said that Sinn Féin believes that the role of the Government is crucial, that the Department of Agriculture should take a lead in providing supports for those in the sector, training for those willing to diversify and liaising with other State agencies such as the Department of Health to minimise bureaucracy in the sector.
“If we are to maintain our network of family farms across Ireland then we need to be imaginative and supportive of all options,” he said.