Hemp consumerism grows

Kiara Stacey
By Kiara Stacey
May 9 2022 - 1:31am

Demand for hemp products has been steadily growing but this year growers in SA did not plant a crop at all.

A ripper season last year, which had 185 hectares of hemp planted, resulted in an abundance of left over seed.

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Aside from a 10ha trial plot under flood irrigation at Keith, there was no other hemp planted in SA for a 2022 harvest.

Good Country Hemp managing director Mick Andersen said they simply had a lot of seed leftover.

But they had been developing the market for hemp since they started in 2018 and it takes time to get into various markets.

"We've been working hard at online sales and retail sales and also bulk sales but also food service sales as well," he said.

"And it doesn't happen overnight.

"(In March) we had a record sales month and (April) was going to just surpass (March's figures), and we regularly have months where our sales have exceeded all previous attempts.

"Our business is definitely growing and our sales are growing all the time."

He said while they service SA, they are also breaking into interstate markets and looking to export.

"We are finding there's a definite preference for a local product," he said.

"We have been able to displace a lot of the interstate brands from supermarket shelves here in SA and definitely in health food stores as well - so that's been a positive.

"We can tell from our sales figures that more people are trying it and more people are using it every day."

Mr Andersen said foodSA had been tremendous for promotion, through its awards program.

"Hemp comes in a few different forms," he said.

"The four main products that we do are cold pressed hemp oil, hulled hemp seed, protein powder and hemp flour.

"Any one of those four products should be able to fit into a meal somewhere."

Mr Andersen said the coming planting season, later this year, looked very positive.

"We will be planting quite a bit of seed in the South East this coming season," he said.

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A PIRSA spokesperson says there are 25 licenced hemp growers in SA and two processing licence holders.

"This has been a steady increase since hemp licences were first granted in 2018," they said.

"Not all licence holders actively grow industrial hemp in any given season.

"Industrial hemp licences are valid for five years unless suspended or cancelled earlier.

"A licence can only be issued by PIRSA if the applicant, and each associate of the applicant, are deemed to be fit and proper persons by SA Police, and the area of cultivation is greater than one hectare."

The spokesperson said prospective growers should thoroughly investigate the legislative, agronomic and commercial aspects of industrial hemp production before commencing.

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"No issues with the licence application process have been raised by prospective license holders," they said.

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"No significant changes have been made to the licensing application process since commencement.

"Industrial hemp is considered an emerging industry, with interest in the crop increasing, particularly for food and nutrition.

"To help support the SA industry, PIRSA continues to work across government and with industry associations and licensees to identify new opportunities for investment and to plan industry development strategies."

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PIRSA was also asked if the anticipated farm gate value was still $3m by 2026, what had been done to increase demand and if there were any issues being faced with hemp licensing but did not get a response.

Hemp used for livestock consumption

A collaborative project investigating livestock affects after hemp consumption is under way in WA where the researchers are trying to establish withholding periods for marketable livestock.

Vasse Valley Hemp Farm cofounder and managing director Bronwyn Blake said the overarching goal was to demonstrate the safety of hemp for livestock.

"But also the safety of the products coming from livestock, so milk, meat and eggs for human consumption," she said.

"At the moment, we're just focusing mainly on meat.

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"We want to understand the effects of consuming hemp on growth performance and carcass traits and understand the cannabinoid excretion and accumulation in tissues."

She said it was a pretty big topic to cover but that the main benefits for agriculture was that it would diversify farming portfolios.

"If farmers can graze livestock on hemp, and it passes on the benefits to livestock in terms of highly nutritious green feed, which is usually in short supply over the summer period, and its a better outcome for livestock, it's a win," she said.

"We're not confident enough that animals can be sold to market after grazing of vegetative hemp crop without cannabinoid residues.

"We need to understand what happens to the cannabinoids when sheep or cattle consume hemp, how much is stored in the fat, how much is metabolized, and how long it stays in the fat after it's been consumed, does it have any therapeutic benefits, does it stimulate appetite, does it reduce stress.

"We don't we don't know any of this stuff yet."

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Ms Blake said they would like to research to see if it also helps with animal welfare, pain management and appetite stimulation similar to how cannabis works on humans.

"The amazing, fatty acid profile that's found in the hemp seed should be enough to get more people consuming hemp," she said.

"If you get a chicken or a pig that's eating hemp seed, they should have a better, more healthier, fatty acid profile in the products that go to market - higher omega eggs and higher omega meats."

She said they have at least 10 years of research ahead of them to establish the answers but was happy to be well into phase two of the study.

Kiara Stacey

Kiara Stacey

Journalist

Journalist for Stock Journal. Kiara was in classified sales at Stock Journal before joining the editorial team. Kiara completed a Bachelor of Communication (journalism) at Deakin University in 2020.

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