The legalising of hemp seeds as a food source next month is expected to yield a multi-million dollar industry for hemp pioneers based in the Northern Rivers region.
Northern Rivers Hemp Association president Andrew Kavasilas, the founder of Vitahemp Australia, has spent years identifying and breeding Low THC hemp cultivars to suit the region’s sub tropical region.
He said that the lifting of the ban on hemp seeds on November 12 would usher in a new era of prosperity for the Nimbin-based company.
‘We are planning to grow 600 hectares this year (once the ban is lifted) so we’re talking a serious number of jobs,’ he said.
Mr Kavasilas, who is currently in Tasmania at a hemp industry expo, said his company Vitahemp would be supplying licensed hemp growers with certified Low THC varieties, including proven varieties with no detectable trace of THC Delta 9.
‘We are hoping to get local and state government support to expand the industry in the region. We’ve been working on this for over 20 years so we’re very happy this is finally happening,’ he said.
Mr Kavasilas, one of the first people to be granted a license to grow hemp under the Hemp Act of 2008, has been growing trial crops since 1999 for study purposes.
He said only a handful of companies were importing seeds for selling, so as a producer of seeds, Vitahemp would be at the cutting edge of the new industry.
‘We are based in the Northern Rivers but we have farmers from North Queensland down to Tasmania,’ he said.
By legalising the consumption of hemp, Australia will be joining a global industry worth more than $US570 million in the US and Canada alone.
Mr Kavasilas said apart from being a food source for humans and animals, hemp was one of the most versatile of crops with a wide variety of uses in fibre, fabrics, building materials, paper and bio plastics.
Another hemp pioneer celebrating the lifting of the ban is Hemp Foods Australia founder, Paul Benhaim, who operates from Bangalow.
Mr Benhaim said hemp was not only a nutritious food source, it was also good for the environment.
‘Hemp also removes more CO2 from the air than trees do and is highly pest, weed and drought resistant’ Mr Benhaim said.
‘Unlike corn, cotton, soy, wheat and rice, Hemp uses a lot less water and doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides. It also yields food that is more nutritious than all these others combined and isn’t plagued by their allergies.’