Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Certification to raise profile of Tasmanian hemp food products

By Lachlan Bennett
Source: theadvocate.com.au

Opportunities: Phil Warner, managing director of Ecofibre Industries, which has been growing hemp in Tasmania since 1999. Picture: Scott Gelston
Certification to help market hemp food products grown in Tasmania could be introduced in time for next season.
Safety and quality would be two key criteria of the certification system, which the Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania plans to develop in consultation with industry players.
President Tim Schmidt said certification would create quality assurance and a brand “that denotes food safety and great taste”.
“The other thing we need to do is expound the virtues of the product itself in that it’s a highly nutritious food,” Mr Schmidt said.
“This time next year you could well find cereal boxes in the supermarket saying they’ve got hemp.”
The future looks bright for the hemp industry following Friday’s decision to allow low-THC hemp to be legally designated as a food.
Hemp production in Tasmania has doubled in the past year from 150 to 300 hectares.
The industry could expand to 1000 hectares in the near future, according to president of the Tasmanian Farmers and Growers Association Wayne Johnston.
Mr Johnston supports industrial hemp certification provided it’s developed using a whole-of-industry approach.
“We need to differentiate ourselves from mainland Australia and we do that well most of the time,” he said.
Ecofibre Industries has grown hemp in Tasmania since 1999. 
Last season it produced 110 hectares, predominately in the state’s north.
Managing director Phil Warner said any certification effort would need to be industry-led.
“We don’t want legislative impediments, we want constructive assistance (from government),” he said. 
Mr Warner said it would be good to have a round-table discussion involving government and key stakeholders to explore how best to capitalise on the approval of low-THC food products.
“It you’re promoting a quality Tasmanian food product, you’re also promoting tourism to Tasmania,” he said.
Ecofibre with The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is undertaking research to develop high-yielding, low-THC industrial hemp varieties suited to Tasmanian growing conditions.
Mr Warner said projects like this could help Tasmania catch up with more mature hemp markets abroad.
“If bureaucrats embrace this and think hard and outside of the box, they will come up with some great opportunities that will help this industry,” he said.
Primary Industries and Water minister Jeremy Rockliff said allowing low-THC hemp in food could open new markets.

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