IT’S the ultimate cash crop, delivering a potential profit to farmers of almost $10,000 a hectare.
While debate rages over a push to legalise medical marijuana, a Victorian businessman has urged local farmers to consider growing its less potent cousin: industrial hemp.
Adrian Clarke, director of Textile and Composite Industries (TCI), said the worldwide market for clothing, oil, beauty products and building material made from industrial hemp was growing exponentially.
The plant, which has little or none of the active ingredient that gives users a high, requires a special licence to grow in Australia and most of its by-products can only be sold in overseas markets.
Mr Clarke said it was a renewable, drought-hardy crop that used just 20 per cent of the water of cotton.
He said there were already a number of legal crops growing in the North West region.
“We would encourage local farmers to look at it,” Mr Clarke said.
“If you’ve got the right seed varieties to grow in the region, you can have a fantastic industry.
“We are currently looking to contract farmers to grow it.”
Mr Clarke’s company has developed special technology to strip the fibre from the plant during harvest.
It can then be transformed into a textile or fibreglass replacement.
“We’ve used our fibre to make experimental car bodies – it’s that strong,” Mr Clarke said.
“It’s also a very tough, very soft fibre that can be blended with anything.”
The hemp can also be turned into a cannabis oil to treat children with intractable epilepsy and the seed used as a health food.
“It’s the most important dietary supplement ever known,” NSW Hemp Party president BJ Futter said.
“It has 110 amazing molecular structures and can help the body get back to its potential.
“The medicinal benefits of it aren’t anecdotal, they are fact.”