The South Australian Government has announced there have been ten licences issued for the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in the state.
Ten licences may not sound like a huge number, but it wasn’t that long ago the crop was entirely banned in the state; with South Australia the last jurisdiction in Australia to lift the ban in April last year through the passing of legislation.
While some news outlets at the time were reporting farmers would be able to start growing the crop within weeks, as expected that proved to be just a little optimistic. The first cultivation licences weren’t issued in April this year.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetsone said there has been a lot of interest in the sector and its future looks bright.
“With the current predictions, the emerging new industry could have a farm gate value of up to $3 million in five years,” he said.
A trial planting has already occurred, which is informing a second trial of six hemp varieties to begin this month with view to identifying the best strains to grow in South Australia’s conditions. The first and second trials are led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).
Members of the nascent industry met last week at an inaugural meeting to discuss their plans and share information.
“The key purpose of this meeting was to foster industry development, share insights and plans, connect growers and processors to encourage collaboration and discuss preparations for the upcoming season – this is key to developing a strong, robust industry,” said Minister Whetstone.
Industrial hemp in South Australia must be grown for certified seed producing a final THC level of less than 1%. It’s important for farmers to select the right seed as crops exceeding 1% THC (the intoxicating compound in cannabis) will no longer be industrial hemp and could be referred for criminal investigation. For the time being, industrial hemp will be grown only for seed and fiber production in South Australia – the regulations do not cover its production for medicinal uses.
Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) is responsible for administering the Industrial Hemp Act 2017; which authorises the possession, cultivation, processing and supply of industrial hemp in South Australia.