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.

NZ Grower - - News - By Kris­tine Walsh Pic­tures cour­tesy Mid­lands Seed

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.

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