Hemp farming is taking off in western Victoria with farmers in Derrinallum and other regional locations jumping at the chance to grow this high-yield and hardy plant.
Harvest season for Victorian hemp crops began in the last week and yields from the crops so far has proven to be a boon for farmers.
The hemp being farmed is not psychoactive cannabis and is used to produce a number a products from protein powder to hemp oil that is rich in essential fatty acids and produces no ‘high’ associated with cannabis.
Director of the Geelong based company that processes the harvested hemp, Australian Primary Hemp, James Hood, said the health of the crops planted in Derrinallum and the increased popularity in the hemp product industry is a great thing for local farmers.
“We have two crops in Derrinallum, both are in the 35 to 40 hectare range,” he said.
“These are trial crops but our farmers want to expand operations further.”
While hemp crops cannot be compared in price to traditional food crops, Mr Hood said as demand for the product grows, so will the profitability of hemp for the farmer.
“We wouldn’t compare hemp to wheat or anything like that yet but demand is starting to increase and we are moving towards a position where our suppliers will able to meet that demand,” he said.
“Hemp is looking to be the super-food of 2018 and everyone is hungry for this clean, green, Australian product.
“We have been inundated by interested farmers who want to try to diversify their crops with hemp because it is a good rotational crop that fits into growing windows other plants can’t.”
Currently, hemp production in Victoria yields about 800 kilograms of product per hectare but farmers and Australian Primary Hemp are hoping to increase this to a tonne a hectare in future.
Our goal is to be a bigger grower than France.- James Hood, Australian Primary Hemp director
Mr Hood said his company are proud to be able to offer an alternative crop to farmers that provides a solid financial return and keeps all processes involved in hemp production in Australia.
“The intent we have is to try and bring a lot of the financial side of it back towards the farmer so the middle-man is not making all the money,” he said.
“We encourage all farmers to get on board with hemp and take advantage of this cooperative situation that is really about getting that money back into the farming community.
“All our directors and a majority of our staff are farmers by family connections so we really want to support the farming base and give local farmers an opportunity to grow something where they have a better price point.”
Growing hemp for industrial purposes has been legal in Victoria since 1998 but the sale and consumption of edible hemp products was only legalised in Australia and New Zealand in November 2017.
Hemp has been used in health-food stores in cosmetics and other products for many years but the recent changes has seen an increase in the demand for hemp ingredients in foods and supplements.
Mr Hood is confident the changes to the laws and the hardiness of the hemp plant will mean Australia will be able to become a world leader in hemp farming and processing of hemp products.
“Our whole scheme is looking to expand from our current 700 and 950 hectare sites to 10 times that over next 24 months; I believe that’s where we need to be,” he said.
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