POPPIES will be commercially grown in Victoria and potentially the south-west after the state government cleared a bill allowing companies to harvest the drug.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is leading the push to establish the industry in Victoria, making it less dependent on Tasmania, where storms caused millions of dollars damage to crops last year.
Tasmania is the world’s largest producer of opiate alkaloids and the only state in Australia where the flower can be cultivated.
Much of the product is processed at the GSK plant in Port Fairy to make morphine, codeine and thebaine. The company has expressed interest in growing the crop locally.
Moyne Shire mayor James Purcell welcomed the bill, saying he hoped the company would establish its growing sites in the shire after trialling crops in western Victoria.
“It enables them to keep growing in Victoria if there are issues in Tasmania,” Cr Purcell said.
He said the company had imported poppies from Turkey last year.
“The market has grown significantly. It’s crazy we are importing poppies when we can grow them here,” he said.
GSK told The Standard in February the outcome of trials would be known in coming months and welcomed the bipartisan political support.
There is also potential for more jobs to be created at Port Fairy and in the south-west.
Western Victoria Liberal MP David O’Brien told Parliament on Thursday the bill would help secure the Port Fairy site’s future.
“GSK has certainly been quietly hoping that this legislation would come before the house because it assists in shoring up the plant at Port Fairy to have enough diversified supply between Victoria and Tasmania,” Mr O’Brien said.
Northern Victoria MP Kaye Darveniza said the industry “has the potential to create a $100 million industry for our state within a decade”.
The bill will allow for a three- year commercial licence to harvest poppy straw.