Hemp ready for takeoff – Restrictions on $1b sleeping giant

THE third Australian Industrial Hemp Conference in Launceston this week heard a call for the Federal Government to pull away restrictions that are holding back the emerging industrial hemp industry and take it to the billion-dollar level.

Industrial is not a drug and is used as food, fibre, building material, ropes and clothing.

The biennial conference is an opportunity for growers, researchers, processors and buyers to discuss key issues, hot topics and the latest research findings to grow, process and market industrial hemp.

Tasmanian Hemp Association president Tim Schmidt, who has a property, Woodlands, near Deloraine, said there was a lot of work going on to invest in and build the industry.

“Our national crop has grown from 120ha in 2014 to a peak of just over 4,000ha in 2020 and now back to around 2,000ha this season,” Mr Schmidt.
“Like any new emerging industry there are production, marketing and infrastructure development issues effecting industry growth, and for hemp, government regulatory and legislative restrictions.
“I believe the fibre industry is the sleeping giant of our industry here, there are several current projects in the making throughout Australia that have the potential to transform our industry very quickly.

“Canada is a great example for us to follow; we’ve learned from their mistakes and their successes. We’re very lucky to have them to look to and they’ve got really good legislative structure for their industry.
“If the Australian Government had been proactive 20 years ago in their regulations on low THC cannabis Australia could have a billion-dollar industry just like Canada has right now.
“More government restrictions need to be lifted.

“It was our Tasmanian ministers of the day that got the hemp for food ruling over the line in 2017. Tasmania has now established industry here with good infrastructure and farming practices. We have been producing well over half the hemp food in Australia each year.”

Mr Schmidt said THA would continue to encourage government investment in industry research.

“I recently learnt that New Zealand’s government contribution to research into industrial hemp is about 12c per capita, compared to Australia’s investment of a little over 1cc per capita.
Our industry and its potential, has not been taken seriously enough by some of our governments across the nation.”

Tasmanian conditions are ideal for growing industrial hemp – we have the right climate, access to irrigation and a reputation for crop security.

With a farm gate value of around $5 million in 2019-20, Tasmania is one of Australia’s largest producers of industrial hemp, supplying over 30 per cent of Australia’s total industrial hemp crop since 2019.

Using the whole industrial hemp plant creates a major farm-gate opportunity for farmers, utilising the seed, biomass and fibre, it is conservatively estimated a potential gross margin of about $7,600/ha.

Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said in July 2021, the State Government committed $150,000 to partner with AgriFutures Australia for Tasmania to participate in a three-year national industrial hemp trial to identify varieties best suited to Australian conditions.

Attendees of the conference viewed a presentation on the trials.

“This month, the Tasmanian Hemp Association also received $100,000 under the Government’s Strategic Industry Partnership Project focussing on educating consumers about the health benefits of hemp as food,” Mr Barnett said.

Hemp industry peak body Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance’s Catherine Cowans said at the conference AIHA was working to develop and grow all aspects of the industry.

“Our members operate in the areas of food, fibre and medicinal,” she said.