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Maciej Kowalski, Kombinat Konopny:

“We moved our CBD cultivation to Italy, the Polish weather is better for industrial hemp”

“We have around 100 hectares of fields. It’s a completely different setup from what the medical industry is used to,” says Maciej Kowalski, CEO of Kombinat Konopny. The Polish company grows hemp for CBD and for fiber. During trials, the company realized that it might be better to move its CBD cultivation to a different country. “We don’t have enough sunshine in Poland to grow CBD varieties to their full potential. Our trial results showed it. We grew the same variety in two places: northern Poland and central Italy. In Poland, the flowers tested at 2% CBD and in Italy at 8%.” Yet Maciej says that Poland is one of the best countries in the world to grow industrial hemp. “The weather is perfect for it: lots of rain and mild winters.”

From CBD to fiber to CBD
Maciej started his first hemp company almost 10 years ago. “Back then, there was a lot of attention around the benefits CBD could offer epilepsy patients. I started the first Polish company that used CO2 extraction for CBD,” Maciej says. At the time, Maciej didn’t have the time and resources to explore the other benefits of hemp. “5 years ago, I sold that company to a Canadian holding. I was bound by non-compete clauses, meaning that I could not produce CBD. That’s when I explored industrial hemp.”

Looking back, Maciej says it was a great time to exit the CBD market in 2018. “When I started that CBD company, everyone thought I was crazy. But when people saw that my company sold for that amount of money, it drew a lot of attention. That’s when many decided to enter the Polish CBD market as well. Yet they didn’t see my 10 years of hard work and struggles to get my company to that point. It’s not as easy as it may seem to be successful in hemp. When lots of products started to get imported from the U.S. and China in 2018/2019, the market collapsed,” Maciej says.

Maciej Kowalski

Around that time, Maciej founded Kombinat Konopny, just focusing on industrial hemp for fiber. “The interest in industrial hemp products is slowly growing. Yet if you want to buy them, there are not a lot of options here. There are Chinese products, hemp sweaters, for example, that are imported, but once tested, it is not always even made from hemp. Moreover, the last years have shown Polish people that we would like to be less dependent on other countries. From the pandemic to the war in Ukraine and the Suez Canal being blocked, people have started to realize that this model, where we source everything from other countries, is not sustainable. Many of our customers buy our products because they are locally made and high quality.”

Now, the company also grows hemp for CBD. But that side of the production is no longer located in Poland, as the Italian sunshine proved to be better suited for cannabinoids than the Polish rainy weather.

“The perfect weather”
“In Poland, we don’t get a lot of sunshine, but we do get a lot of rain. After touring different countries, I’ve learned that Poland is one of the best countries in the world for industrial hemp cultivation,” Maciej says. “When growing for fiber, you need lots of rain. Moreover, we don’t harvest in autumn but leave the plants on the field throughout the winter and harvest them next spring. The winter in Poland is not very harsh and also not very warm, which is the perfect condition. When water freezes and defrosts, it changes its density, which is what you want for industrial hemp, as it separates the fibers. This is why you couldn’t grow it as efficiently in France, as the winter is not strong enough. On the other hand, you also couldn’t grow it as efficiently in Finland because the frost stays for 4 months straight. The Polish weather, however, is perfect.”

Future growth
According to Maciej, the Polish industrial hemp market is currently at the point where the CBD market was 10 years ago. “It’s still very new, but I see lots of growth potential for local hemp products. People increasingly want high-quality, local products. Also, more and more people want to make environmentally conscious decisions.” As Maciej sees a lot of growth potential, he wants to work on expanding their product line and refining their quality. “We want our hemp clothing to become softer so that it has the same feel as cotton.”

When it comes to the CBD division, the company aims to go as far to the mainstream consumer as possible. “Up until now, it used to largely be a product for people within the cannabis industry. But we have almost 40 million citizens in Poland. I want everyone to be able to experience the benefits of CBD,” Maciej says.

For more information:
Kombinat Konopny