Hemp weaves its way into the Ord

 

 

HEMP will take its next step in the Ord Valley next month with trials to asses its viability as a commercial crop.

With an existing market, 1.2 tonnes of a new seed variety in storage and a modified harvester, all the company needs is a grower.

 

Hemp Resources director Colin Steddy said discussions were underway with the Department of Agriculture’s Frank Wise Institute in Kununurra.

 

 “An outcome will hopefully be determined within the next two weeks,” Mr Steddy said.

“We have been communicating with a couple of parties but the Department is our preferred grower,” he said.

 

The company’s managing director and CEO Kim Hough said with 70 million seeds, they were hoping to get a minimum of 25ha planted to properly trial a commercial crop.

“This is necessary if we are to determine what adjustments are needed for growing the crop and the use of our modified harvester,” Mr Hough said.

“We will be planting a new Chinese seed variety as well as re-trialling the Canadian seed,” he said.

 

Kununurra Agricultural Department research manager Gae Plunkett said although past trials conducted by the department were unsuccessful, “it may be worth looking at a different variety.”

 

Mr Hough said recent trials in the far north and south west of WA have given his company a great deal of confidence coming into the southern winter and northern dry seasons.

“We are hoping to also bulk up our seeds with this trial for a major planting in the summer months around September/October,” he said.

 

He also said it was a possibility the company would be planting out several thousand hectares by 2009 for full scale commercial production.

This would be assisted by Hemp Resources having exclusive rights to the Chinese seed variety, which he said would grow well as a broadacre crop with the best possible yields.

 

This was in addition to a Canadian seed variety which was subject to an exclusive agreement with the Ontario Hemp Alliance.

 

Hemp is an annual crop and can be harvested for three purposes: biomass, seed and fibre.

The crop is at its most dense at 90 days and by 150 days the lower part of the stem is ready to be harvested for biomass.

 

In 2006 the Yunnan Industrial Hemp Company from China signed with Hemp Resources to work on the development and marketing of sustainable products, including hemp.

Yunnan is the only hemp company in China endorsed by local and central governments, police and Ministry of Agriculture for breeding and supply of industrial hemp.

 

Mr Hough said Yunnan’s principal Dr Nelson Tan and vice general manager, senior engineer professor Hu Guang, had spent four years developing international relationships and developing an extensive breeding program for the betterment of the industrial hemp industry, for both China and other countries.

 

Past failures have resulted in mixed feelings around the Valley, but Mr Hough is certain the company is heading in the right direction – with a market already established.

“The most important thing with any industry is establishing a market for the commodity – and we already have that,” he said.

“The difficulty is not how much we can produce on land but how much it will cost to get the produce to an international market.”

He said this was a key component in the crop’s success and a lot of logistics were being done.

 

There has been much debate surrounding the harvesting of hemp because of its association with marijuana.

Commercial hemp crops contain only very low concentrations of the active chemical in marijuana, THC.

 

Irrespective of past controversy, Mr Hough claimed the Government was keen on seeing the crops success in the Ord – “but not another failure”.

 

The State Government passed legislation in 2004 allowing hemp to be grown for commercial enterprise only.

The project has been in operation for 12 years, and has had what Mr Hough believed to be some of the best people in the world working with it, because of their passion for the environment.

 

“The huge demand for hemp and hemp-derived products, together with the shortage of product available globally, had given us an enormous amount of confidence in the re-emergence of the industrial hemp industry,” Mr Hough said.

 

He added there was no doubt Hemp Resources and WA would play an important role in its future.

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