Hemp in WA rides high on top growth
WA is on track to have an important and profitable hemp industry, after big increases in the number of growers and hectares planted last year.
According to HempGro, the recently formed WA hemp growers’ co-operative, active licensed growers increased from 39 to 70 in 2018, and hectares planted grew from 77 to 193 compared with a year earlier.
Crops harvested in Albany last year were among the first in the State. Crops were sown around September, many with some of the nine tonnes of seed imported by HempGro from France, and most will be harvested in March.
Meanwhile, Vasse Valley Hemp in Busselton has become WA’s first paddock-to-plate hemp food business.
In 2017, Vasse Valley, owned by Chris and Bronwyn Blake, unveiled its Dr Weedy’s Hemp Ale, and in November started selling its own roasted hempseed crumbles, dukkahs and pastes.
Bronwyn Blake, who until recently was chairman of HempGro, said the fledgling industry still had much growth and development ahead but had made some significant steps during the past 12 months.
“More people are starting to listen and understand the potential of hemp and the more people we have on our side, the faster we can grow to be a profitable industry,” she said.
The surge in plantings follows the McGowan Government’s changes to the Industrial Hemp Act to allow hemp to be grown with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of up to one per cent — putting it in line with national standards.
Previously, the maximum permitted level of THC, which is the psychoactive constituent of cannabis, in WA hemp was 0.35 per cent.
The higher permitted THC concentration level means many more hemp varieties are available for industrial hemp production in WA, particularly for use in food.
The State Government has offered $200,000 in grants, available for research into new varieties suitable for WA conditions and to develop processing opportunities.
Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has said there are opportunities for hemp as a high-protein grain for food and beverage production, and as a strong fibre for textiles.
Crops harvested in Albany last year were among the first in the State.