A recent food conference in New Zealand has earmarked hemp as having the potential to impact the food industry and to boost the economy. While the laws around hemp foods are only now opening up, following the example of Australia, its hoped this will lead to an explosion of new companies and products.
More than 170 delegates from the New Zealand food industry met and discussed the global future of food and the opportunities for the country, and more specifically the Hawke’s Bay region where the conference took place. Delegates decided to form a hemp special interest group to explore customer oriented opportunities in the fibre, medicine and food categories.
James Cameron growing hemp?
Hemp has only recently returned to New Zealand with the rules being relaxed in 2001. However, restrictions on the industry have limited its capacity to grow. Nonetheless, there has been growing interest in the crop and even well-known figures are taking part in the hemp revolution. Film director James Cameron is among those growing and researching the crop in recent years through his company T base 2.
Previously, hemp producers could sell hemp oil but not the by-products like hemp seed meal. Earlier this year Andrew Davidson of Midlands Nutritional Oils told local media “We are going from being able to sell 25 percent of the raw material for human consumption to 100 percent, so that is a big change.”
Laws to be changed
Others are expressing their interest in hemp. One prominent athlete and nutritionist, Emily Miazga has already announced her plans for hemp products once the legislation is passed. While a hemp protein bar recently won a competition worth $55,000 despite the owners not being able to sell it until the law changed this week.
It was also recently announced by the Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor that the laws around human consumption would be changed. “The Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 will be amended to allow the sale of hemp seed as food.” he told media.
‘Great news’ for the industry
O’Connor also said the move is “Great news for the hemp industry, which has argued for decades that the production of hemp seed foods will stimulate regional economies, create jobs and generate $10-20 million of export revenue within 3 to 5 years”.
At present 200 to 300ha of hemp is grown in New Zealand annually. One media report suggests that the opening of the hemp food market may triple the amount of hemp cultivation in the country. So it’s likely that more food conferences will be discussing the positive impact of hemp in the coming years. – Brian Houlihan