Big cuts see growers exit poppy game

POPPY growers across Tasmania are braced for another year of cuts, with Sun Pharma set to drop their intake to just 650Ha next season.

It comes as part of an ongoing dive of Sun Pharma’s poppy crop area in Tasmania, dropping 55 per cent from the 1500ha harvested last season.

Some 4000ha were harvested the season before.

Poppy Growers Tasmania president Phillip Loane said the decrease in cropping ground was only half the story.

“Costs of growing were estimated to rise by $600 per hectare this year, 14 per cent up on the previous season, yet we’re looking at a price decrease of 23 per-cent,” Mr Loane said.
“It’s effectively a 37per cent reduction, before you even consider the hectare cuts.” SunPharma will reportedly grow about 100ha of crop in each of their seven regions of Tasmania, with no indications on an increase or decrease for the future.

Crops will once only be grown in the northern half of the state and it is expected to be only Thebaine and Papaverine poppy varieties.

“At this stage, all we know is SunPharma are having to deal with a lot of cost issues, we just don’t know what that’ll mean for the following seasons,” Mr Loane said.

Poppy Growers Tasmania chief executive Keith Rice said that the further cut in cropped area would likely see many farmers turn away from poppies for good.

“It’s pretty likely that we’ll see farmers decide to not grow poppies at all this year,” Mr Rice said.
“Farmers are seeing their margins become smaller and smaller every year, not just within the poppy industry.”
“You can understand the viewpoint of the farmer thinking ‘why rip up a paddock for a few hectares of poppies, when I could have something else in the ground earning me money.”

SunPharma’s cut in cropping is the latest blow to the Tasmanian poppy industry, which has recently seen the liquidation of PallaPharma (formerly TPI Enterprises) in the past year.

Negotiations between growers and Tasmania’s other poppy processor, Extractas, are yet to begin.