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Quest for sustainable fiber with antimicrobial properties has created a global market for hemp (بھنگ) that grows wild in Pakistan. The ongoing COVID19 pandemic and increasing climate concerns have given further impetus to this movement. Responding to shifting market preferences, major Pakistani denim makers Artistic Milliners and US Denim have now begun producing new denim fabrics blending cotton with hemp.
At last year's Kingpin Show online, Karachi-based Artistic Milliners presented its Bio Vision 2.0 collection that is based on guidelines set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign, featuring biodegradable fibers that provide optimal recovery, according to Sourcing Journal. The mill’s circular focus is also displayed in its Circular Blue New collection, which is made of 100 percent recycled cotton and uses post-consumer, pre-consumer and industrial waste. Lahore-based US Denim’s latest collections also focus on sustainability and feature recycled and biodegradable fibers. Its Reborn product is “sustainable from every angle” and uses recycled cotton, elastane and polyester; aniline-free dyestuff; and water-safe dyeing methods.
Sourcing Journal reported that "the Pakistan-based fabric mill also highlighted its use of cottonized hemp, which checks off multiple boxes for consumers, as the fiber is both sustainable and naturally antimicrobial. Its IntelliJeans collection features hemp sourced from China that is free of pesticides and uses 86 percent less water than conventional products".
Scientists at Agriculture University in Faisalabad are working on creating the blends needed to satisfy the need for sustainability, softness and antimicrobial properties, according to BBC Urdu. Dr Asad Farooq of the UAF was quoted by the media as saying: "We have signed an MoU with a US-based company and will soon begin mass production".
Pakistan government has decided to permit hemp farming for industrial and medicinal use, according to Mr. Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Science and Technology. Initially, the government will control hemp production, Chaudhry said, but private businesses and farmers will be allowed to enter the market at a later date, according to the French news agency AFP.
Hemp ( بھنگ ) plants grow wild like weeds in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Potohar region where the nation's capital Islamabad is located. Hemp is one of the oldest plants on record as having been used to benefit humans. Hemp is known to have at least 50,000 different uses. In South Asia, people have been cultivating hemp to make ropes and bags and to smoke hashish for centuries.
The government has picked International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) to help regulate hemp products in Pakistan, according to HempToday, a publication that covers the hemp industry. Located at the University of Karachi, it has all the equipment and expertise needed for validation and compliance certification of hemp products in the country, according to Dr. Iqbal Chaudhry, the Center’s Director. He said Pakistan can develop value-added products for export using ICCBS’s research facilities.
|Hemp (بھنگ) Applications|
It is hard to tell hemp and marijuana plants apart. Both look the same. However, unlike marijuana, hemp does not contain large amount of high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which can be addictive. However, it can still be used to produce CBD (cannabinoid) for medical purposes. US Law requires that hemp not contain more than 0.3% THC.
In addition to using CBD in food and medicine, there are many different industrial uses of hemp as well. It can be used in textiles, paper, building materials and body care products.
Pakistan can export CBD to European Union and the United States where it has been legalized and being used to fight the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. The estimated global current market opportunity for CBD is about $25 billion."This hemp market could provide Pakistan with some $1 billion (in export earnings) in the next three years and we are in a process of making a full-fledged plan for this purpose," Mr. Chaudhry told the media recently. He also said that with cotton production in Pakistan declining due to various factors, hemp provided farmers with a viable alternative.
Hemp is probably the strongest natural fiber known to man. It has been used to make ropes, bags and textile fabrics for centuries. Rope beds, known as charpais, are still a common sight in rural Pakistan. Using hemp instead of trees in making paper and packaging materials can help save Pakistan's meager forests, and help diversify exports to earn valuable foreign exchange.