TASMANIA'S protected status as Australia's only approved supplier of narcotic poppy products took a hit last week when legislation allowing Victorian farmers to grow commercial poppy crops passed that state's Parliament.
The Victorian Parliament was expected to pass amendments to the relevant legislation, paving the way for Victorian farmers to grow commercial poppy crops.
It did so on March 18 with the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances (Poppy Cultivation and Processing) Amendment Bill 2013, which will become law once it is signed by the Governor.
However, Poppy Growers Tasmania chief executive Keith Rice said that Victorian legislation, allowing its farmers to apply for licences to grow poppies commercially, meant nothing unless the federal government agreed.
"I've just returned from Vienna, where the International Narcotic Control Board was meeting, and this [the Victorian poppy-growing attempts] was high on our agenda speaking to a whole range of people," Mr Rice said.
"They gave us an excellent hearing.
"The people pushing for change say that Tasmania has run out of land suitable for cultivating poppies at a time when the industry faces expediential increase in demand.
"But Australia's figures are around 24,000 hectares for this year, the same as what they were last year and considerably less than the 32,000 hectares contracted the year before that - and we're learning that the US market is slowing quite a bit," Mr Rice said.
Mr Rice said that any state government could pass legislation approving the growth of narcotic material, but the final say lay with the federal government.
Federal government approval was required for the exportation of narcotics, he said.