The ABC reports…..The company that trialled hemp in Katherine in 2016 says the crop could have a big future in the region if the Northern Territory Government decides to support it.
Draft legislation to legalise the growing of industrial hemp is before Cabinet, with a decision expected in the coming months.
Farming director of Ecofibre Industries, Phil Warner, said the Top End could be a great location for a commercial industry.
“The Northern Territory is a very special case, it is close to the Asian market where there’s big demand for a high quality vegetable protein,” he told ABC Rural.
“This crop will grow there successfully and there’s a significant opportunity. It would take time to make the industry commercial and getting the agronomy right will take time, but [I think] it would be a very competitive crop for NT growers to consider in their rotation or portfolio of crops.”
Mr Warner said there was room for both industries to be profitable in Australia.
“At this stage the medicinal marijuana side of things will have a higher value, but as soon as that goes into mass production that value will reduce,” he said.
“In time both will be equally profitable … and remember, the capital going into cannabinoid production [medicinal marijuana] will be very high [compared to industrial hemp].”
Mr Warner said there was currently a strong market for Australian grown hemp seeds, but a lot more work was needed.
“If you’re growing [industrial hemp] for seed, you will have no problem in Australia selling for about $2,000 to $3,000 a tonne, every kilo you could produce will find a market, and that will probably be the case for the next three years minimum.
“What happened in Australia, was as soon as the laws for hemp food were updated to be in line with the rest of the world, we saw a plethora of people trying to grow industrial hemp in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland and they were mostly importing seed from all over the place, like France, Italy, Canada and trying to grow it at a completely different latitude,” he said.
“So there is a need — a big need — for Australian produced hemp seed.”
He said it was crucial for state and territory governments to have similar laws regarding the growing of hemp and transport of material.
He said more research was also needed to develop varieties suited to the various growing regions of Australia.