Hemp stakeholders in Australia’s Northern Territory say they hope to take advantage of conditions that allow for two crop cycles annually, after the NT Parliament enacted legislation legalizing hemp farming and processing. The law passed Aug. 8, 2019, making NT the last Australian state or territory to legalize hemp.
NT authorities said they want to tap the potential of hemp for fiber and grain, and envision the Territory as a major provider of planting seeds to the rest of Australia. They said the possibility of two crops per year is a major factor that incentivizes farmers.
Setting a framework
“Industrial hemp has real potential in our current climatic conditions and could be a viable new industry on a broadacre scale,” NT Farmers Chief Executive Paul Burke said.
The new law sets a framework for farmers and researchers to work together facilitating investment and job creation opportunities in regional areas based on industrial hemp. The law introduces a licensing system governing such things as possession, cultivation, supply, processing and research.
Two early movers
Stakeholders point to the region around Katherine, about 200 miles south of Darwin, as having strong potential for hemp growing. A test plot put in last year at the town’s research farm was successful, officials said. Authorities at Katherine expect to put in their first full crops next year.
Meanwhile Aileron Station, a cattle station in the NT, will start hemp trials within the next three months, and eventually plans to grow up to 100 hectares (247 acres), said Andrew Barratt, GM of group operations at property owner Caason Group. Caason bought the cattle station property in 2015 with the intention of growing hemp, and had been waiting for the government to make it legal, the company said.
“The legislation is long-awaited and represents a fantastic opportunity for the NT,” Barratt said.
Caason said it plans two harvests annually, with the first expected in 18 months. The company said it is investing about AU$500,000 (US$340,000) in the Aileron project.