Monday, February 6, 2017
Still waiting for the hemp seeds to grow
By Zona Black
Next week will see two powerful bodies take their first step in unity towards establishing an industrial hemp future for Tasmania.
The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture has partnered with EcoFibre Industries, a global company that specialises in industrial hemp, and is renowned across the globe.
Each body has independently worked on evolving the industry for some time.
EcoFibre director Phil Warner told The Sunday Examiner this week that the company has been growing hemp around the world for about 18 years, and has grown every year in Tasmania since 1999.
Together, and with other players on board, the partnership hopes to create a strain of hemp that is unique to Tasmania, and offers virtues and qualities that other strains do not.
This desire to create a specialist offering is not driven out of vanity.
It is driven out of necessity.
Essentially, they are playing catch-up and concentrating their efforts on creating a product that won’t be available elsewhere in order to enter as a competitive player.
Mr Warner said that Australia’s laws around industrial hemp were holding the country back, and had done for some time.
He said that recent projections had shown that the hemp seed and food industry is expected to increase by 20 per cent globally, each year for the next five years.
His lament is that Australia had a chance to be a part of the growth, and forging a path into the industry, but neglected to amend legislation.
“We could have been part of this 15 years ago,” Mr Warner said.
“It’s like Australia is trying to shoot themselves in the foot.”
It is legislation and red tape that constantly baffles those trying to enter the industrial hemp industry.
Hemp has been lumped with marijuana that is typically used for recreational purposes.
However, as industry players repeat constantly, industrial hemp contains little to no THC (that’s the stuff that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties).
Hemp can go on to produce fibre, and food products. Both of which have been proven to be beneficial.
However, the sale of low-THC hemp and associated produce as foods is banned in Australia.
There have been numerous attempts over the years to reverse this ban (it’s freely allowed in Northern Hemisphere countries) but they’re knocked back.
Three years ago, I wrote a column on this same topic.
Bishopsbourne hemp farmer Phil Reader told me then that farmers were “being robbed” because of such legislation.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association then-president Jan Davis echoed his thoughts.
Ms Davis told me that she believed that industrial hemp in Tasmania could equal the heights that the state’s $300 million poppy industry reaches.
In those three years, not much has changed in terms of federal legislation.
In Tasmania, the state government late last year made changes to make it easier for farmers to grow industrial hemp crops.
It introduced streamlined legislation surrounding growing the crops, and extended the licences from one year to five years.
The chance is there for Tasmania to capitalise on this burgeoning industry.
All we need is the national support.