Mordor Intelligence, a US-based market research and analysis firm, reports that the estimated cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of cotton consumption is 3.1% from 2019 to 2024. The largest and fastest growing cotton market is the Asia-Pacific region.
Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan account for more than 65 percent of the world’s total cotton consumption. However, in Uzbekistan and Vietnam, cotton consumption has increased significantly in recent years.
The hemp fiber market is expected to grow at a higher CAGR of 5.2% from 2019 to 2024, a recent report by MarketWatch states. According to a new study, the market value of hemp fiber will increase from approximately $190 million in 2019 to $260 million in 2024.
Are there any special reasons for the growing popularity of hemp fiber? There are many. Hemp as a crop has several advantages compared to cotton, as does hemp fiber. We present some critical information about the differences based on rigorous secondary research.
Water footprint angle
Recently, high water consumption and waste have become serious problems as groundwater levels drop around the world. Sustainability requires proactively looking for changes that save water. Reducing dependence on cotton and switching to hemp is one of these steps.
According to a research paper from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, hemp needs less than a third of the water needed by cotton. The water requirement of a kilogram of cotton is 10,000 liters. One kilogram of hemp only needs 2,719 liters of water.
Other aspects of the growth phase
A 2018 Medium article states that the yield per hectare of hemp fiber is 200-250% higher than that of cotton. The cotton associations of Australia and India estimate the global cotton yield per hectare to be 775 kilograms. This translates to £691 per hectare.
In contrast, the average yield of hemp fiber per hectare is two to three tons. In addition, hemp is naturally pest-resistant, so pesticides are not needed. A major environmental problem in cotton cultivation is the heavy use of pesticides.
Cotton’s huge demand for water and pesticides leads to significant soil erosion. Hemp, on the other hand, is known for its soil-protecting properties. This is one of the reasons why farmers have used hemp as a crop rotation since ancient times, along with other important crops.
Experts claim that hemp cultivation should become an integral part of sustainable development. That’s how strong hemp’s ecological properties are.
The versatility factor
Cotton fiber has many uses. Cotton fibers offer a wide range of fabrics: from corduroy to velvet, from bed linen to bath towels. Army clothes are made of cotton. This also applies to several industrial products, such as tents and protective covers.
Cotton fibers are also used in coffee filters, bookbinding, preservation of archive paper and production of fishnet socks. However, hemp also surpasses cotton in versatility. The fibers of the hemp line can produce a high-quality fabric that feels and looks similar to linen.
Coarser hemp fibers, also called rope, can match cotton piece by piece when making bags, rugs, shoes, and so on. You can also make curtains and tarps from hemp fabric. However, hemp fibers have other uses that cotton fibers do not.
Coarse hemp fibers can incorporate jute to make bags. Ropes and threads can also be made from hemp fibers. It is possible to make bioplastics from hemp fibers and respond to the growing concern about pollution caused by traditional petrochemical plastics.
The pulp residues of hemp fibers can be used to make paper. The first paper sample available in China is hemp paper. The first drafts of the United States Declaration of Independence were also written on hemp paper.
Hemp paper is still used in banknotes, cigarette paper and filter paper. Cotton pulp also produces paper, but all the problems related to cotton production also hinder the production of cotton paper. The advantages of growing hemp instead of cotton also apply to the production of hemp paper.
Hemp fibers produced a fabric that was used to sell ships long before cotton became the main fiber crop. A curiosity in this regard: the term Canvas is derived from cannabis. Curious what this has to do with hemp?
Hemp belongs to the same plant species as drug cannabis or marijuana: Cannabis Sativa L. However, hemp does not have the psychotropic properties of its narcotic cousin, as there is a crucial difference in the chemical composition of the two plants.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a substance with psychoactive properties, is found in high concentrations in cannabis: 7.5 to 10 percent or more. Hemp contains 0.3 percent or less THC. The versatile hemp has been out of use for nearly a century because this essential difference has been overlooked by neglect (or, as many would say, commission).
Now that hemp cultivation has been decriminalized in several countries around the world, including the US, let’s explore the benefits of its fiber.
Comfort and durability
Both cotton and hemp clothing is very comfortable, especially in hot and humid tropical climates. Fabrics made with both fibers have good breathability. Fabrics made with both fibers get softer with each wash and are more comfortable to use for all skin types. However, hemp fabric beats cotton in terms of durability.
A 2005 article in the Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management states that hemp is the strongest natural fiber ever produced, with a remarkably high tensile strength. The natural resistance to pests and fungi makes the hemp fabric even more resistant. Thanks to these properties, hemp fabric easily withstands cotton fabrics.
A particular advantage of hemp fabric over cotton is that hemp can completely block ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When you wear hemp cloth, you protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays that cause cancer. Cotton, on the other hand, has poor UV protection.
Water transfer and other functions
Cotton is definitely more water absorbent than hemp fabric. Hemp fabrics have good breathability, but cotton fabrics breathe better. Cotton can also absorb body odors while hemp cannot. However, hemp fabrics have antibacterial properties that cotton does not.
In addition to durability, the natural resistance of hemp fibers to mold and mildew means they are gentler on your skin. Cotton fabrics, on the other hand, invite mold and mildew to grow. Cotton is a very delicate material that does not react well to washing in the washing machine.
Hemp fabrics, on the other hand, are very resistant and contain 78% cellulose. Machine wash does not wear them easily.
But hemp, like linen, folds more easily than cotton. However, it did not diminish the desirability of flax, which is significantly more expensive than cotton. It is not illogical to say that with the right promotion, there is also a demand for hemp fabric.
Especially if it is considered important to free hemp from the narcotics wrongly assigned to it.
Celebrities Recommendation for Hemp Fabric
The good news is that the durability of hemp fabrics is supported by many celebrities, from the silver thread to the sports world. Hollywood’s Emma Watson and Michael Fassbender are two stars who never pass up an opportunity to promote clothing made from hemp fabric.
Internationally renowned skateboarder Bob Bergquist has long used shoes made from hemp fibers. However, we have to admit it before we sign: no matter how many people argue about the relative benefits of cotton and hemp fibers – they mix really well and produce an exceptional fabric for clothing.