Hemp, Cannabis sativa, is indigenous to temperate regions in Asia. All major industrialized countries but the United States cultivate hemp for its fibers and oil-rich seeds. The former Soviet Union was the world's leading producer until the 1980s. As of 2018, China was the largest producer, with other significant industries in Ukraine, Russia, China, Canada, Austria, Australia, Great Britain, Hungary, Romania, Poland, France, Italy, and Spain.
Cannabis was initially spread around the world because of its fiber, not its intoxicant chemicals or its nutritious oil seeds. It is one of the oldest sources of textile fiber, whose use for cloth can be traced to 8000 B.C.E. in China and the Middle East. Hemp fiber is also used for the manufacture of cordage, sail cloth, and fish nets. Oil extracted from seeds is used in paints, medicines, and foods.
Publication Information & Recommended Citation
Bromberg, Howard. "Hemp Fiber." Ming Y. Zheng, co-author. In Encyclopedia of Global Resources. 2nd ed., edited by Craig W. Allin. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2019.