Update from our President - August 2020
Tasmanian Hemp Association President Tim Schmidt presented the following speech at our Annual Awards dinner held at The Tramsheds in Launceston on Friday 21st August 2020.
Tim opened his remarks with a heartfelt acknowledgment of the presence that evening of Jeanette Reader and her son Aaron. Tim paid both his own and our Association's deepest respect and admiration for the late Phil Reader's invaluable contribution to the development of the Tasmanian hemp industry, noting that Phil continues to be very sadly missed.
Tim also made an official thank you to our three generous event sponsors ANZ Bank, Ananda Food and ECS Botanics, without whom the event could not have proceeded due to our heavily restricted numbers to adhere to COVID-19 physical distancing requirements.
"What a gathering!! This is the first time we have had such comprehensive representation of the Tasmanian hemp industry all in one place at one time.
This includes our lawmakers, our bureaucrats, growers, processors and other supporters. The definition of an Association is ‘...a group of people organised for a common purpose’ and I’m pleased to say, with lots of hard work and dedication, this is what we have done today.
I’m happy to say that all processor companies are now corporate members of the Association, including Ananda Food, Midlands Seeds, ECS Botanics, Hemp Harvests, Hemp Foods Australia, Australian Primary Hemp and The Tassie Hemp Shop. Almost every hemp grower in the state is a member of our organisation and we have a growing membership of supporter members from the community and service industries.
I am so pleased that so many Tasmanians are engaged with our hemp industry; this factor helps to add momentum to the drive for change and further unleashing the amazing opportunities for Tasmania. Now, just so you know for sure, industrial hemp is defined in Australia as cannabis with less than 1% THC. So regardless of how much you puff on industrial hemp, it will never make you high.
Hemp has been a feature of Tasmanian agriculture for the last 20 years. Initial trials were of fibre crops, with varying degrees of success, eventually it was recognised that hemp oil, which at the time was for topical use, had more lucrative markets. In 2012 there was 20 tonne of hemp seed grown and processed into hemp oil.
The Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania was formed in 2010 where 16 attendees elected Phil Reader as president. Along with the support of the State Government of the time, the Association helped develop the state industrial hemp bill which was passed in November 2015. This helped put Tasmania at the forefront of the Australian hemp industry by cutting red tape and stripping away needless restrictions to allow the growers and processors set the foundation for a small but vibrant industry. To illustrate just how important the progressive role of Government is, you only need to look at how Canada legislated hemp for food 20 years ago, now they have a billion dollar industry.
Our industry in Tasmania has magnificent tri-party support from our representatives, and I know they will be determined to work on Federal and State changes to help our industry grow beyond recognition. The Association is looking forward to being involved with the government in reviewing the current state industrial hemp legislation coming up soon.
Up until 2016, the area grown under hemp in Tasmania varied from 50ha to 105ha, with yields gradually improving from 0.5 tonne to 1 tonne per hectare. These were years of hard work and frustration learning how to deal with the crop and observing nonsensical restrictions to marketing hemp as food.
The breakthrough came with changes in legislation on November 12th 2017 when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) at last agreed to take on the recommendation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to legalise the sale of low THC hemp as food. It took four submissions by FSANZ over about 10-years to eventually have COAG agree. This is the type of resistance the industry has had to deal with over the years. I must point out that this change would not have occurred without the dogged determination of our state representatives including Minister Rockcliff who’s here tonight.
Once the food legislation was passed there has been exponential growth in the Tasmanian Industry:
Along with this growth we have seen top yields rise from 1t/ha to over 2t/ha.
Unfortunately this past season has been the most trying experience for the hemp growers in Tasmania yet. Only about 1,400 of the 1,600 ha licensed were planted and seasonal conditions dictated that our average yield has dropped from 1.2t/ha to just under 1t/ha coming in at .95t/ha. As discussed earlier at our top crop session, there are various reasons for this, the main ones being time of planting and a wet autumn. There were a number of very high yielding crops where harvesting was not completed because of wet and boggy conditions.
In 2017 on behalf of our Association, Treasurer Daniel Cadart and I put together a proposal for the State Government with industry projections and costs which included a detailed strategic plan on how the Association could bring the industry together with confidence, communication and advocacy. This proposal included a grant of $50,000 per year for three years, essentially to engage an Executive Officer to help the organisation function effectively - thank you to Andi for doing such a great job - and promote industry research, with the eventual goal of become self funding. The Government supported our proposal and it is one of the key reasons for ours and the Tasmanian industry’s success. Our organisation now has over 100 members, which includes almost every hemp grower in the State.
It also must be said that important industry development would not have been possible without the investment and perseverance of companies such as EcoFibre (now Ananda Foods) and Midlands Seeds. The involvement of these companies have been critical to the early development of the Tasmanian industry, and along with new processor companies continue to have an important role in the development of our industry. Ananda Foods has invested substantially into new cultivar development which is only now showing huge gains for the industry. Also Midlands Seeds have been trialling and researching various cultivars, mostly derived from Canadian varieties.
Tasmania has been fortunate to benefit over the last couple of years from significant investment into infrastructure, and I mean millions of dollars, which has only just kept ahead of production growth. Major investments from Tas seed dressing and storage into grading systems, Hemp Harvest into de-hulling, Ananda Foods into drying and ECS Botanics into drying and early investment into CBD production have all contributed to industry consolidation and provided a great foundation for the future.
We in Tasmania are lucky to have all these factors come together along with a fantastic growing climate and competent farmers to allow us to develop this great industry, however we still have a long way to go until we can fully exploit the clear opportunities before us.
My vision with which I’d like to inspire you, is for industrial hemp in Australia include full utilisation of the plant with no more production, processing and market restrictions than you would have for any other regular food, fibre or fodder. This includes the de-scheduling of CBD along with unrestricted conditions for terpenes or cannabinoids present in the plant other than THC.
Also with proper regulations relating to a certified seed, the ability to use hemp straw as mulch or bedding without excessive processing can add so much value to the crop. The key to these changes is that excessive artificial costs are taken out of the system, giving us important competitiveness at a global level. As you heard from Andi, we are about to see the establishment of a hurd production facility utilising the stubble and supplying a growing building industry in Tasmania.
To explain further, there are a little over 100 cannabinoids present in the hemp plant, the main ones being Cannabinol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol THC. The THC is what makes you high. CBD is what a lot of the global excitement is about, being seen as an herb extract that is affective in treating anxiety, inflammation (ie arthritis) and cancer.
It’s important for you all to note that the global legal CBD market is forecast to be $20 billion by 2025. Referring to estimates put forward by Fortuna Hemp based in Florida, a CBD-hemp grower in 2018 in the US would have expected a gross return of $148,000 per ha. More recent figures which reflect a drop in the market price indicate a return of $50,000/ha for Tasmanian farmers...how would you like that, we’re talking serious numbers here.
Right now there is strong market demand in China of which we could be taking advantage. You should know also that there are major companies poised ready to invest millions of dollars of capital into the Tasmanian economy once the inevitable changes occur. Remember in most parts of the world CBD is deregulated and freely accessible to consumers....but not here. Here we treat it as a dangerous narcotic that is no more hazardous than a dose of echinacea. This is one of the most significant opportunities for Tasmanian agriculture and the Tasmanian economy ever, right under our noses.
There looks to be three courses of action we can take:
One is to model a CBD production system in Tasmania on the existing poppy industry. This way we can satisfy our international obligations, which by the way the US and Canada are ignoring. The second is to remove industrial hemp and CBD from the poisons act, giving us at least the opportunity to produce and export the product to overseas markets, where there are no restrictions on the products. The third, and this is my preference, completely deregulate controls on industrial hemp and treat it the same as any regular crop we grow in Australia like linseed for example.
To help bring about change at a federal level, the Australian Hemp Council was recently formed to focus on these and other objectives. The Council is a 7-member body with a representative from each State and the Northern Territory. Most of the members are delegated representatives from the Hemp Associations of their State. The Council is a Federal body for hemp representing grower and processor interests to Government and industry. Our focus is to improve the industry’s capacity to compete at a global level, thus ensuring long term sustainability of a profitable industry.
The core objectives of the Australian Hemp Council include:
Getting back to the THA: I’m glad to see we are making progress in achieving our goals including creating a communication network that encourages alignment of interests and actions of Tasmanian growers industry and government, and improving farm returns through industry development with research and agronomic assistance.
I’d also like to point out that the calibre of your Association’s board is most impressive, with world class financial managers and analysts, progressive farmers, innovative researchers and successful business managers. You are most lucky to have these professionals provide their services for the benefit of the Tasmanian hemp industry.
You may deduct that I’m excited and inspired by the opportunities before us in the Tasmanian hemp industry. This is a sentiment I hope I can instil in everyone of you tonight, so you can see where we can take this golden opportunity. We can say now that Tasmania has an established hemp industry, considered the nation’s leaders, you should all be proud of what we together have achieved. There are many of you in this room who have done your bit contributing to our industry. It is fantastic to have you all here and share our aspirations, as we continue to work together I’m sure we can build a truly remarkable and unique industry for Tasmania"