THE poppy industry is an underrated Australian success story, a UN-ranked drugs and crime officer believes.
Australian ambassador to Austria David Stuart, who is also accredited to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, was in the state this week to look at the industry he played a small part in allowing to operate in Australia.
Australia is one of seven countries permitted to grow a large amount of raw material to be used for opiates.
Mr Stuart lobbied with several other groups while on an overseas posting during the late 1980s for this to occur.
He met with company representatives from GlaxoSmithKline Australia, Tasmanian Alkaloids, and TPI Enterprises, and the Poppy Growers Association this week to get a view of how the industry had progressed in the past 25 years.
``It is personally and professionally gratifying to come back, and see how strong our industry is,'' Mr Stuart said.
``It's a sophisticated, successful industry.
``Products have been developed that only a couple of companies specialise in, particularly in Tasmanian Alkaloids in producing thebaine which is a material for significant analgesics in the US market.
``We provide 80 per cent of the world's thebaine.''
He said Tasmania's reputation for scrupulous poppy security was internationally renowned.
``Australia provides somewhere around half of the raw material for significant pain-killing drugs . . . and our reputation is a key part of our success,'' Mr Stuart said.
``The end result is over 800 farmers growing poppies for the industry.''
Mr Stuart said Tasmania's poppy industry generated an estimated $250 million in terms of payments to growers and contractors each year.