Tasmanian farmers today welcomed the state government’s expressed resolve to facilitate the island’s potentially lucrative industrial hemp growing industry by removing unnecessary red tape that has so far hindered its development.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Jan Davis said this had been a potential industry going nowhere despite a 2012 Legislative Council recommendation that the government remove unnecessary red tape to allow it to proceed.
Hemp is cultivated in Australia and New Zealand under strict licensing arrangements. It is used to make fibre, textiles, paper and building materials. Hemp seeds and oil are used in health bars, salad oils, non-soy tofu, non-dairy cheeses and as an additive to baked goods as well as being used as the whole seed, raw or roasted.
New Zealand permits hemp seed oil to be sold as a food, but Australia does not. It still has to be approved by all states and the national government under COAG arrangements. This is despite the fact that in 2012 FSANZ recommended for the second time the lifting of restrictions on the use of hemp for food production. The federal government has again delayed a decision on this matter, now saying they will not make a finding until January 2015.
“Tasmania has about 100 ha under cultivation, mainly in the north and north-west,” Ms Davis said. “Yet there is far too much state-based regulation and red tape for farmers to be able to do this profitably. There are more rules covering hemp than there are for growing opium poppies. It’s ridiculous,” she said.
“And we need it to clear COAG restrictions on use of hemp for food products as a matter of urgency. This lengthy procrastination on what is a straightforward matter is unacceptable.”
Ms Davis said removal of prohibitions on production of hemp seed and oil products would provide Tasmanian farmers with a greater range of potential products and encourage more to consider growing it commercially.
“We have shown we can grow poppies safely; and we know we can grow hemp successfully too,” she said.
“Of course, people must realise that growing industrial hemp for food and fibre is an entirely different matter to producing medicinal cannabis, the subject of the latest debate.
“Our view is that we should remove the unjustifed constraints on the industrial hemp industry before we start thinking about production of medicinal cannabis,” Ms Davis said.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Jan Davis