Farmers and Nationals back Hemp

Agriculture could take on a new direction, according to NSW Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries, who this week pledging his support for the Hemp Industry Bill 2008.

Mr Humphries said the the bill would enable low-TCH hemp to be cultivated and supplied for commercial production and other legitimate purposes.

Speaking to the Parliament, Mr Humphries said he believed the hemp industry was a significant player as a fibre crop, with hemp already successfully grown in the Darling Downs and Wide Bay areas of Queensland.

“Places such as Barwon, because of the nature of the soil, the climate and water availability has the capacity to ramp up hemp production quite quickly,” Mr Humphries said.

Mr Humphries said hemp currently grown in the Darling Downs is exported to France for processing, as Australia cannot get a mill to establish this value-adding process.

“Australia is short of a fibre-processing mill, which would create jobs in regional areas not only for domestic consumption but also for export and the creation of such a mill is vital.”

Superior paper pulp, biodegradable plastics, automotive and aerospace components, animal bedding, absorbent materials, textiles, building products and insulation are some of the by-products of hemp fibre.

“We have the capacity, with our sustainable agricultural practices and our environmentally friendly techniques for fibre production, to build a new industry.”

Moree’s Ross Munro, who was involved in a pilot project in Dalby, believes there is great potential for an industry in NSW.

Mr Munro is one of a number of growers in the Moree area working in collaboration with Ecofibre Industries, instigating hemp trails in the district and designing relocatable milling plants.

Phil Warner, Ecofibre Executive Farming Director said that to overcome current transport conditions and compete in an international, heavily subsidised, market Australia needed to become more efficient in the way hemp is processed and handled.

He said there were currently developing new harvesting and module building techniques based on those used in the cotton industry, allowing 60-80 percent of the crop to be processed in the field.

Mr Warner said the relocatable milling systems would also compensate for Australia’s varying seasonal conditions and with hemp internationally dual cropped and processed for food and fibre, it had a huge market.

“Canada’s hemp industry has grown from a value of $50,000 to $50 million in six years,” Mr Warner said.

Mr Warner said he was disappointed that it had taken NSW so long to investigate the possibilities of the industry.

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