Hemp could hold the key to a farming revolution in the Hunter.
The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation approved the sale of low THC hemp in food products last month – a decision that the NSW Government welcomed.
The change to the Food Standards Code will involve strict limits on the level of THC – the agent in cannabis that gives people a ‘high’ – allowed in hemp foods.
Vacy farmer Bob Doyle produces hemp fibres at his property and had also begun to produce hemp grain crops for export before the change to the Food Standards Code last month.
Mr Doyle, who is also the president of the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance, said the opening of the domestic market for hemp food products provided a wealth of opportunity for Hunter farmers.
“Now this has come through, the domestic market will just give people a lot more confidence,” he said.
“It’s a very high value grain, relative to your traditional cereal – wheat, barley those sorts of grains. It means that at the moment, with the value of the grain, you can grow it on a much smaller scale.”
Mr Doyle said there was an abundance of dairy and former dairy farming land in the Hunter that would suit hemp production.
He said there was also a lot of land that had been used for beef cattle, which had not been subjected to the over-use of pesticides, that could be eligible to become certified for organic farming and increase the value of the hemp crops produced there.
“These [changes to the Food Standards Code] will open up some significant opportunities in this area,” he said. “At the end of the day, you can grow this crop anywhere.”
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said that, in the USA, the Hemp Industries Association estimated hemp foods, supplements and body care products reaped between $150 million to $170 million per year.
“It’s already sold legally in more than 21 developed countries – it is now time for Australians to reap the benefits,” he said.