At least 250 hectares of low-THC hemp are expected to be planted in western Victoria this year as the hemp industry takes advantage of new laws that allow hemp to be consumed as food.
Australian Primary Hemp (APH) director James Hood, formerly of Hexham, said the 250 hectares in Western Victoria was part of about 950 hectares being planted throughout Victoria, NSW and Tasmania to supply the company.
The Western Victorian plantings include sites at Derrinallum, including a farm owned by APH directors Charlie and Alexandra Mann, and at Hexham and near Camperdown.
Growers need to be licensed to grow the low-THC crop that is only allowed be have a maximum tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level of .0.35 per cent to be sold.
The new laws, effective from Sunday, November 12, end the situation where the hemp oil and hemp seed protein already produced by APH had to be labelled as for cosmetic use only.
APH spokesperson Georgina Beasley said many of its customers were aware of the health benefits of low-THC hemp and had been consuming APH’s hemp oil and protein despite the cosmetic use only restriction.
Mr Hood said the end of the restriction would allow low-THC hemp to be marketed as a superfood “and hopefully spark more conversation around the environmental benefits of the plant.”
APH, one of about five companies growing low THC-hemp in Australia, ramped up its production plans in anticipation of the end of the restriction and is also expanding its product range.
APH also expects to commission a hemp seed processing facility in Geelong in January, prior to its seed harvest in late January-February.
APH has so far focused on growing hemp for seed rather than fibre because hemp seed can be harvested with conventional headers.
Mr Hood said most of the 250 hectares to be grown in the Western Victoria was planted last month and been favoured with “fantastic” growing conditions.
Ms Beasley said the new laws would allow APH to promote its products more openly such as the use of hemp oil for cooking in commercial premises.
It also plans to extend its distribution across Australia to health food stores.
Australia and New Zealand had lagged behind the rest of the world as the only remaining nations not to have legalised low-THC hemp for human consumption, APH said.
It said low-THC hemp had long been globally recognised for its nutritional merits.
Low-THC hemp had a five-star health rating and provided a perfect 1:3 balance of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, a complete amino acid profile including all 8 essential amino acids, excellent dietary fibre and bioavailable protein, APH said.