Concern for poppy growers

VICTORIAN legislation allowing its farmers to grow commercial poppy crops is expected to pass the upper house before the end of March, but would still not guarantee Victoria a commercial poppy industry.

Poppy Growers Tasmania president Glynn Williams described the move as an audacious grab that had been tried before, by Western Australia.

``Western Australia didn't get permission from the federal government to grow poppies and I can't see any compelling reason why the decision should be any different this time around,'' he said.

``The decision ultimately comes from the federal  bureaucracy and involves a number of agencies - there is no free trade in narcotics.

``We are in the process of finalising a meeting with the assistant Minister for Health Senator Fiona Nash and will be travelling to Canberra in the very near future to talk to her.

``Obviously, we take [moves like this by other states] very seriously and our committee will be meeting this week - we could well discuss some other measures.

``While we do have a self interest in seeing poppies remain solely in Tasmania, the objective reality is that there are many other, non-commercial, considerations to be taken into account.

``In our view, the tragic death by misadventure last week of someone experimenting with the poppy crop, tends to highlight the many factors that are relevant to growing a narcotic crop.''

Mr Williams said that Australia was a signatory to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the treaty commitments were replicated in Australian law through the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967.

``That act requires that the relevant minister, including the Health Minister, has to make decisions in accordance with the treaty,'' he said.

``The treaty, among other things, is against the proliferation of opiates unnecessarily and we are concerned that a rapid expansion into Victoria, it could totally stuff it up for Australia as a whole, because other countries would decide they could ramp up their own production.''

Mr Williams said that it would be of ``much greater benefit'' to all processors to concentrate on improving productivity in Tasmania as it would concentrate the growing area and lead to better returns.

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