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Flax History, Fact & Figures

a large green field with trees in the background

An Ancient Crop

Flax has been grown since the beginnings of civilization, and people all over the world have celebrated its usefulness throughout the ages. Cultivated flax, L. usitatissimum, is of two types: one is grown for the seed and the other for fibre production. In North America, it is primarily the oilseed varieties which are produced commercially.

Historians weave the magic of flax into ancient history. Records show that the human race has eaten this seed since early times.

About 3,000 B.C. Flax is cultivated in Babylon. Burial chambers depict flax cultivation and clothing from flax fibres.
About 650 B.C. Hippocrates writes about using flax for the relief of abdominal pains. In the same era, Theophrastus recommends the use of flax mucilage as a cough remedy.
About 1st Century A.D. Tacitus praises the virtues of flax.
About 8th Century A.D. Charlemagne considered flax so important for the health of his subjects that he passed laws and regulations requiring its consumption.
About 15th Century A.D.

Hildegard von Bingen used flax meal in hot compresses for the treatment of both external and internal ailments.



Cultivated at close-proximity, flax is grown in a wide coastal band of Western Europe stretching from the South of Normandy in Northern France through Belgium and the Netherlands : from Caen to Amsterdam. The only plant textile fiber originating on the continent, European linen cultivation cannot be relocated, its excellence is thanks to a unique combination : a natural, damp ocean climate, flax’s low thermal density, a rich soil and the experience of flax growers.

Sales figures for Growing and Retting of European Flax:

225 Million € 
(Source C.I.P.A.LIN average harvest)

European linen #1 in the world with 85% of the worldwide production  of retted flax fibers

Cultivation and Retting

+ 7,500 agricultural companies within 14 European countries.  You can find all major companies in our Flax Linen Industry Directory

Average land surface for flax grower

11 hectares per farm 
(Source C.I.P.A.LIN)

81 300 hectares of flax cultivated in the E.U.

2014 - sources C.I.P.A.LIN (FR), ABV (BE),Vlas en Hennep.Nl (NL)

90% of retted flax is destined for the textile market including

60% for clothing
15% for household linens
15% for furniture and lifestyle
10% of flax is destined for new technical opportunities

1 hectare of retted European flax

= 6 tons of straw
= 1,5 tons of scutched flax
= 0,65 ton of yarn
= 3,750 sq. meters of fabric / 4,000 shirts / 431 bedsheets
(Source : CELC and C.I.P.A. LIN)

Linen textile consumption in Europe <1% 
of textile fibers consumed worldwide