The Fiji Sun reports……Opposition Whip, Lynda Tabuya, thinks that Government should invest in Industrial Hemp to replace the sugar industry as the backbone of the economy.

Delivering her response to the President’s speech yesterday, she said if there was no money or knowledge to invest in the flailing sugar economy then an alternative should be identified.

“I won’t delve into legalising marijuana (medical or otherwise) like my esteemed colleague Honourable Nawaikula has… well at least not now, but I would like to point out the reasons why I believe Hemp can save our country,” Ms Tabuya said.

“I first came across the innovative idea of industrial hemp replacing sugar after an ADB study recommended it as a replacement for sugar in Fiji nearly two decades ago.”

While highlighting its benefits, she said it was high time that Fiji takes hemp seriously as the environmental advantages were manifold.

She said compared to sugarcane which takes up to 16 months to harvest, hemp only takes four months to grow.

“Hemp requires less water and due to its ability to return nutrients to the soil can be the perfect crop rotator for Sugarcane. Hemp grows thicker so less chance for weeds (meaning less weedicide and other chemicals) and more harvest yield per acre,” she said.

“Clothing made from hemp is more durable and cost efficient even being 10 times stronger than cotton, lasting much longer. Growing and harvesting hemp is not only a possible solution to our sugar problems but also a new raw material input for our struggling garment and textiles industry which imports large quantities of cotton and polyester.”

She said hemp could replace cotton and polyester thereby providing farmers with a new, viable alternative to sugar, and the garment and textiles industry with a locally produced alternative for export.

“Why don’t we grow organic hemp and make surf clothing and accessories stamped our internationally recognisable “Fiji” brand to feed the growing export market which demands these creative new alternatives?”

Ms Tabuya also stressed the importance of value adding in Agriculture saying that domestic and foreign investment into agriculture must be encouraged.