Thursday, February 9, 2017

A united national front needed fro hemp industry

By Baz Ruddick

Image result for Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

A market which produces one to two tonnes of hemp seeds per hectare fetching $2400 a tonne is a market Phil Warner of Ecofibre Industries believes is possible in Tasmania.
Dr Mark Boersma, from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, said to create the strong hemp industry Mr Warner described would require pressure from farmers and industry and an ‘all in’ effort to get research done.
Dr Boersma said the importance of hemp is in its status as an “emerging crop” that can facilitate “diversification” of the Tasmanian agriculture industry.
“Introducing new crops into the rotation makes our industry more robust,” Dr Boersma said.
At TIA’s Forthside Vegetable Research Facility,  a project is underway to produce a high yielding, low-THC industrial hemp variety that could be suitable for a number of applications.
“There aren’t too many crops with that many value chains and there aren’t many you can eat, drink, build with, make clothes from and conduct electricity from,” he said. 
Dr Boersma said the trick for the state’s agriculture industry will be to “get out of the commodity crop focus”.
“It will be a commodity crop, so we have to think what can we do to make our product and system different so it can’t be duplicated anywhere,” he said.
Describing his job as “managing high risk, high cost investments”, Dr Boersma said a collaborative approach was needed to fund all the research necessary to create an industry.
“There are issues that go across the whole industry and they are issues that one company can’t afford to fund the research for, but if you guys get together you can fund research that will benefit everybody,” he said.
“At the end of the day we are not competing against each other in Tasmania, we are competing against the world.”
Dr Boersma said the industry should unite at a national level, lobby the federal government for an RDC (Research and Development Corporation) to represent them and try to get federal funds matched for research.
With experience in the global hemp market, Mr Warner said “now is the time to jump in” and make and brand products as Tasmanian.
Mr Warner presented projections from a “reputable company” that showed global demand for hemp seed will grow by 20 per cent per annum over the next five years.
“If we do it in five years it will be too late,” he said
Mr Warner said Canada, with its “head start”, grows about 150,000 hectares of hemp annually.
“We can beat them on price with research into agronomy to get better yields,” he said.

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