Reports say that hemp could shortly become a hot industry for New Zealand, which as of now has strict regulations on cannabis.
Despite New Zealand being one of the few international countries where hemp is strongly regulated, recent developments suggest that commercial hemp could be the country’s next big industry. As of now, there are about 40 industrial hemp farmers in New Zealand, news and information website Stuff reports, with most operating on a small scale. The growers are currently unable to keep up with the market demand, as businesses worldwide are seeking hemp to produce hemp oil, body care supplies, animal bedding, housing materials, fuel, paper, composite materials and textiles.
One New Zealand hemp grower, David Jordan, told Stuff that he plans to grow 12 hectares (1 hectare = 2.471 acres) this year and then use the seed collected from that crop to expand the following year. The hemp he grows is used for research and development, as well as to produce hemp seed oil, facial serum, oil capsules and animal hemp powder, which he sells on his own. He says he earns a return of $7000 to $8000 a hectare.
“If we grew 300 [hectares] next year we would sell that, no problem at all,” Jordan said. “The demand for fibre alone is thousands of hectares. We have plenty of growers available, we have plenty of land available, we have a reasonable amount of seed ready to go, it’s just now a matter of putting together the processing facility and getting on with it and it’s not that far off.”
Last month, meetings on how hemp could strengthen New Zealand farmers and regenerate rural economies were held at four different locations throughout New Zealand as part of Hemp Awareness Week. Speakers from the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association met with the Minister of Health, farmers, and the public, hoping to raise the profile of the plant and explain the potential benefits for farmers who diversity into hemp.
The law in New Zealand allows the sale of all types of hemp products, except for food and health products, which the government has restricted due to the plant’s association with marijuana. Any changes to the restrictions would have to come from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand, which has denied acknowledging hemp as a legitimate food in the past but has just recently prepared a proposal to permit the sale of hemp seed as food. It will decide on whether to repeal the ban in November. New Zealand’s minister Jo Goodhew has said in the past that she would support such a change.
New Zealand has been slow to embrace hemp’s resurgence like other countries, but Jordan believes a booming market, fueled by industries shifting from synthetic to more natural materials, will come to his country soon enough.
“If you put yourself into the future and look at what is coming, hemp is one of those things that is coming of age in the new economy that’s on the way,” he said. “It doesn’t matter about being behind, there’s plenty of room for us to make a damn good industry in this country.”
Attitudes regarding cannabis in New Zealand have shifted toward acceptance recently. A recent poll found that 65 percent of New Zealanders are in favor of legalizing or decriminalizing recreational cannabis.
Hemp, however, is different from marijuana. While they’re both members of the same plant species, marijuana contains significantly higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid that causes euphoric effects. Hemp contains virtually no THC and is grown and cultivated for its seeds, oil and fibers.
“It’s about time that those who should know better stop confusing industrial hemp with the very different marijuana plant,” said New Zealand Hemp Industries Association chairman Mack McIntosh.
If Food Standards Australia were to change the law to allow hemp to be sold as food, it could generate a more than $4 million industry for New Zealand. Besides a change in law, for New Zealand’s hemp market to really take off, production levels would need to be increased, according to New Zealand Hemp Brokers director Chris Woodney. Permitting the sale of low-THC hemp seed as food would encourage more farmers and manufacturers to join the market.