Hopes for multibillion-dollar lift-off for budding hemp industry
THE New Zealand hemp industry has the potential to grow nearly 10-fold in the next few years -- to generate what is projected by some analysts to be $NZ75 billion by 2025 -- but industry players say there is a lot of catching up to do.
On the eve of law changes that will allow low-THC hemp seed – not just oil – to be used in food for human consumption, there are plans for New Zealand's first iHemp (Industrial Hemp) Summit, with the aim of driving a home-grown economy.
The summit will be held in Wellington in July and, organisers say, offers companies, farmers, scientists, funders and regulators the information they need to collaboratively develop a New Zealand industrial hemp economy.
It will share local and international knowledge, identify local and export opportunities available to companies entering the industry, highlight barriers to success within the market, and help develop strategies and relationships so support the industry in overcoming them.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to create a brand new primary industry based on hemp and now is the time for an informed discussion,” says Richard Barge, chairman of the iHemp Summit, Hemptastic chief executive and treasurer of NZ Hemp Industries Association Inc (NZHIA).
“Hemp is being recognised as a sustainable source of food, fibre and medicine and this summit creates opportunities for companies to make it part of their future business plan.”
As it stands, fewer than 300 hectares in New Zealand are planted in hemp, with around two-thirds of that produced by Ashburton company Midlands Seed.
But NZ Grain and Seed Trade Association general manager Thomas Chin believes that, in the short to long term, that could grow to as much as 2000 hectares with a potential return for farmers of $4500-to-$5500 a hectare.
“This should be great news for cropping farmers,” Mr Chin told Fairfax News. “It would give them an alternative high-value broad-acre annual or rotation crop option, and could also boost investment in the infrastructure needed for the harvest, processing, storage and distribution of hemp seed.”
NZHIA says New Zealand has the talent and resources “to really add
“Serious momentum is beginning to build globally in the iHemp industry as people become aware of the potential, and new business opportunities are being created by legislative changes in areas such as hemp-seed law for food and the use of cannabis in medicine.” ANDREW GIBBS (PARTNER, DELOITTE)
value and bring industrial hemp into the 21st century”, but 80 years of being “outlawed” meant not a lot of work had been done in in developing an industry.
“We need to embrace this incredible opportunity, focus on it and make it happen. There are huge benefits for our rural communities with jobs and investment in capacity; for our economy with export earnings and the production of great products and services; and for our environment by growing a sustainable annual crop.”
NZHIA says a big benefit of growing hemp is that it offers a plant version of nose-to-tail farming: that is, every part of the plant (roots, stalks, leaves and seeds) can be used in products from food and medicine to construction and 3D printing.
However, due to the newness of the industry it is aware of the need to build infrastructure and knowledge and as part of the summit will look at topics from existing markets and required growing conditions to land conversion and sustainability, and hemp's usefulness in “cleaning” soil by removing heavy metals.
“There is enormous potential in hemp food products and the market is growing around 25 percent year-on-year. Legislative changes that will allow other hemp seed-based foods will open up new sources of income and markets for the crop, potentially tripling plantings in the next few years.” ANDREW DAVIDSON (DIRECTOR, MIDLANDS SEED/NUTRITIONAL OILS)
“Kiwi ingenuity has a lot to offer the emerging iHemp industry . . . we have talented people that can create solutions and improvements for growing and processing our annual crop into a wide range of exportable products and technology in food, fibre and medicine,” Richard Barge says.
“To make the most of the opportunity we need to set the vision for our country’s industrial hemp value chain and the summit can play an important role in this.”
– The inaugural iHemp Summit was due to take place at Mac’s Function Centre in Wellington on July 5 & 6, 2018.
In New Zealand, food safety authorities are currently looking to follow Australia to allow hemp seed to be used in food by changing regulations under the Food Act, the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Medicines Act. These law changes expected later this year will allow hemp seed to be sold as a food (for human consumption) in New Zealand, in addition to the current legislation allowing the local sale of hemp seed oil.