BAB 053/22: Sector analysis hemp

Hemp has been grown as a crop in Austria for centuries, but until now it has had the character of a niche crop. The demand for hemp products has been growing for several years, although the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent sharp rise in prices have slowed this development. The aim of the study was to present the various production, utilization and marketing possibilities of the individual plant parts in Austria in more detail and to look at them from the perspective of various stakeholders. In addition to extensive data research, the main focus of the work was therefore on the results of qualitative interviews with stakeholders along the value chain (production, processing, trade) and public administration. In addition to weather conditions, machinery and the know-how of farmers on the primary production side, the current marketing difficulties due to competition from low-wage countries, but also the price increase for alternative market crops, represent the greatest challenges for domestic hemp production.

Hemp is a versatile crop. Hemp seeds contain a high proportion of essential fatty acids and trace elements, which is why they are becoming increasingly popular for dietary reasons (hemp oil). Parts of the hemp straw can be processed into soundproofing and insulating material. The pure fibers are used in the manufacture of clothing and paper, while shives can be used to produce pellets or as animal bedding. Hemp also has medicinal uses. In addition to the intoxicating active ingredient THC, non-psychoactive substances such as CBD can also be extracted from the plant. In Austria, hemp is mainly cultivated for seed production. Straw is often only seen as a by-product. Over the last ten years, CBD has also found its way to Austria and the production of hemp for flower and leaf extraction has been stepped up.

The majority of the farmers surveyed consider hemp to be an enriching crop in crop rotation. One of the biggest challenges of hemp cultivation is choosing the right hemp variety from the EU variety catalog and the optimal sowing time for the respective region. Wrong decisions can lead to total failure. Furthermore, caring for the plant is not very time-consuming, as hardly any passes are necessary. However, it is difficult to choose the right harvest time between August and October, especially if seeds and straw are to be harvested. In addition, due to the strong fibers of the hemp plant, the harvesting process can be problematic for inexperienced farmers. In this case, it is advisable to work with contract threshers who have experience with hemp as well as with machines adapted to the plant.

According to the INVEKOS database, hemp areas have been declining again since 2020 and fell to less than 1,500 hectares in 2022. Prior to this, there had been a steady and in some cases steep increase since 2012 to over 2,000 hectares in 2020. According to the experts surveyed, the areas are likely to continue to decline in the coming years. The changed competitiveness of hemp compared to other alternative crops is seen as the main reason for this. According to the interviewees, good sales have been achieved in the past thanks to reliable buyers of hemp products from Germany. Germany is the most important importer of Austrian hemp products, especially hemp seeds.

Yields in the hemp seed sector in Austria average 700 kg/ha. The organic producer price for seeds in 2022 was €2.2/kg and the conventional price was €1.3/kg. Straw yields averaged 4 t/ha and the producer price was a good €200/t. It should also be noted that hemp is mainly produced on low-yielding soils in Austria. The yields of hemp leaves/flowers are difficult to estimate, they are around 1,000 kg/ha. The producer price fluctuates greatly and was just under €5/kg in 2022.

From a crop cultivation perspective in particular, hemp is seen as an interesting market crop that copes well with drought and requires almost no pesticides or fertilizers. Particularly in light of the ongoing discussions about reducing the use of active ingredients and fertilizers as part of the Green Deal, hemp could receive special attention. In the long term, an expansion of hemp cultivation can help to increase biodiversity in plant production, reduce production risks, produce raw materials regionally and thus improve overall agricultural value creation and increase social acceptance of the energy and raw materials transition. In this respect, hemp also represents a plant with potential in the development of bioeconomy strategies. However, the interviewees were critical of the lack of public support, which could have a negative impact on the further development of the Austrian hemp market.

Project start: 04/2022
Project end: 12/2023

Translated with (free version)

Industrial hemp

Industrial hemp


Project Status


Project Leader

STELZER, Christoph

DI B.Sc. Christoph STELZER

Agricultural Economics and Data Management



DI Dipl.-Päd. Ing. Josef HAMBRUSCH

Agricultural Economics and Data Management
WEIGL, Martin


Agricultural Economics and Data Management
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