Industrial hemp `held back by inaction'

Bishopsbourne farmer Phil Reader with Deloraine farmers Pip and Tim Schmidt, who says the federal government's slow action on changing the law is holding back the hemp industry. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS

Bishopsbourne farmer Phil Reader with Deloraine farmers Pip and Tim Schmidt, who says the federal government's slow action on changing the law is holding back the hemp industry. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS

INDUSTRIAL hemp will soon be able to be grown more easily in the state, with the government announcing action to simplify regulation.

Deloraine farmer Tim Schmidt began growing industrial hemp last year, and said moving industry regulation out of the Health Department and minimising licensing requirements would ensure its future profitability.

Hemp was first grown in Tasmania in 1991, and is farmed to use in products such as hand creams.

But farmers now want to push to be able to sell the product, which is high in Omega 3, for human consumption.

Imported food products are available in Tasmania, but federal laws do not allow farmers to sell the crop for that purpose.

Mr Schmidt said the federal government's slow action on changing the law was holding the industry back.

``It's just stupidity,'' Mr Schmidt said.

``It's been really frustrating.''

Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said he supported the push for hemp to be used in food products, and would lobby the federal government.

AgriGrowth, a body set up to promote growth in agriculture, has been directed to develop options for reducing red tape in the hemp industry.

``AgriGrowth Tasmania is to provide a report to me within three months,'' Mr Rockliff said.

Mr Rockliff would not be drawn into a discussion on medicinal cannabis, a topic that has been gaining traction in the state in recent weeks.

``It's important to draw that line because industrial hemp is very low toxicity,'' Mr Rockliff said.

``We are talking a very different kettle of fish,'' he said.  Mr Schmidt said hemp could be planted in November and harvested by mid-March.

``It's an all around easy crop to grow,'' he said.

There are now about 100 hectares of industrial hemp grown in Tasmania.

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