Hemp Awareness Week starts in New Zealand tomorrow, an event focused on raising the public’s awareness of the potential of this wonder crop.
” Hemp could go a long way toward solving some of New Zealand’s environmental problems, such as: soil degradation, weed control, pollution from unsound industrial and agricultural chemical use, deforestation and depletion of non-renewable energy resources,” says the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association (NZHIA); which has been in existence for almost 20 years.
” The opportunities for kiwi ingenuity are astonishing; creating technology, products and processes all with export potential.”
The Association says 80 years of prohibition has put a massive dampener on hemp research and development in New Zealand and that new processing & manufacturing technologies must be developed domestically to add value to the crop, which has significant export potential.
Legal attitudes to hemp are changing and one of the more exciting prospects is the possibility hemp foods may be legal in the country soon. New Zealand and Australia are the only two countries left in the world where hemp foods are illegal. Even in NZ, hemp seed oil can be purchased legally.
In July, FSANZ (Food Safety Australia New Zealand) finally gave food made from the seeds of low-THC hemp its stamp of approval. There’s hope that a FSANZ meeting in November will result in the ban being lifted altogether.
There’s been increasing interest from NZ farmers in growing hemp as a means of diversification given the many potential markets for leaf, stem and seed-based products. Part of the attraction is that it doesn’t require chemicals and can be used in phytoremediation to restore damaged soils. It can also be utilised to mop up high nitrate dairy runoff.
NZHIA says embracing industrial hemp could revitalise rural economies and help fill government coffers, but it will require significant investment capital.
Currently, only certain cultivars of industrial hemp can be grown, which must have less than 0.35% THC. Farmers who wish to obtain a license to grow hemp need to pay a fee and must also be subject to a criminal check. The crop must be grown on a secure site more than 5 km from a school and should not be visible from the street.
NZHIA says hemp can triple the current rate of return of other traditional land uses; with a forecast gross margin of between NZD $1000 and $10,000 per hectare.