Flax-Linen Economic Observatory

The Alliance connects more than 10,000 businesses in the European flax value chain across 16 different countries. In order to provide a general overview of the outlook for European flax and its markets around the world, the organisation established the Flax Economic Observatory.

Flax Linen Hemp Economic Observatory logo

Key figures for flax fibre production

  • ¾ of the world's production of long fibres (the main product from scutching for the textile industry) is produced in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • Flax fibre currently accounts for < 0.5% of the world's textile fibre production
  • Europe is the world's leading producer of fibre flax
  • +133% increase in the area under flax between 2010-2020
  • 145,000 hectares of flax grown in Europe by 2022 (80% of which in France - 127,000 hectares)
  • 152,000 tonnes of long fibres in 2022 (including 125,000 tonnes in France)

Flax production: strong structural momentum over the past decade

We can see from the data that flax production has continuously increased over the past decade. Between 2010 and 2020, the flax cultivation area in Europe (France, Belgium, and Netherlands)(1) more than doubled. This strong momentum can be explained by the continued growth of global market demand for European textile fibres. In recent years we have witnessed a revival of linen in fashion, buoyed by increasing consumer concern about sustainable development.

Flax: 10 years of structural dynamism

The COVID-19 pandemic did not leave the flax industry unscathed. By 2022, however, this crisis is well and truly over, as both the end market and flax production have resumed at a dynamic pace.

Growth in agricultural land in : France / Belgium / Netherlands - 2010-2022

Changes in flax prices

Just like for other textiles, flax market prices are of a cyclical nature. The Flax Economic Observatory published by the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp  shows that the amplitude of these cycles has accelerated over the last 2 years. There is currently a steady rise in prices, which can be explained in part by the impact of the health crisis on flax growers, but also by the economic context, which triggered a rise in prices for all raw materials, including textiles.

The flax market around the world

The Flax-Linen Economic Observatory lists nine countries in the world that produce long flax fibres, and three-quarters of the world’s long flax fibre production originates in the European Union. A dozen countries are home to 100% flax spinning mills, with China occupying the top spot(1). Whereas China is a key player on the flax market and one of the main partners of European producers, today Europe has a complete value chain covering all sectors in the industry, from farming to scutching, weaving, hackling, and spinning.

Since 2020, three new operational spinning mills have opened in France. One more project is under development in the country in addition to two more in Portugal and one in Belgium(1). European Flax™ is positioning itself in premium markets. Many weavers in Europe are helping European flax perform well in end markets. This is the case for historical companies with strong local roots, e.g. in the Kortrijk region in Belgium, in Hauts-de-France, and in Northern Italy. Thus, Europe has multiple players with a strong capacity for innovation working towards diversification. Finally, the European Flax™ and Masters of Linen™ certifications of the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp provide a guarantee of traceability, which offers a real advantage in the flax market.

What is the future of flax?

This Observatory demonstrates that the supply of flax to the market has not been linear. There are three factors causing changes to the supply of this textile fibre to the market. First of all, industrial potential, which has shown a consistent trend towards further development. Next, the number of hectares, which has been on an upward trajectory, but which could be impacted by economic and social circumstances. Finally, there is a variable factor that must be taken into account which is the crop yield of each harvest, which is inherent to natural plant fibres and is independent of the will of the stakeholders in the sector.

Nonetheless, the European flax industry is ready to face rising demand in the global market. Several European flax producers have launched modernisation projects. Today, almost 75% of long flax fibres are European Flax certified, which ensures their traceability(1). Financial investments made by stakeholders in the sector are evidence of structural confidence. As far as potential growth is concerned, organic flax is worth mentioning, even though in 2021 it only accounted for 0.3% of the cultivation area in France(1).

(1) Sources: Flax-Linen Economic Observatory, Damien Durand - Director of the Economics Department at the Alliance, Linen Day Paris, June 9, 2022.

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