Growers ready for action with new rules deeming hemp seed ‘safe to eat’

Rural Exchange 06/11/2018

A Manawatu family has amped up their hemp production in anticipation of the new hemp rules that have gone in effect today.

The Government loosened its rules on hemp seed to allow the crop to be sold as food, which they antipicate will generate $10-20 million in export revenue over the next three to five years.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will ensure the THC levels in the hemp food products are monitored through the normal process of ensuring food is safe and suitable to eat, the Government says.

Jenny and John Ridd, farmers based in Feilding, already have 35 hectares of hemp – with 15 more to come once they receive approval from MPI.

A hemp plantation. Photo: Getty.

They’ve also cut back on wheat and barley in order to make room for their hemp seed production.

Mrs Reed advises those who are interested in hemp production to start early in order to get the harvesting infrastructure down pat, with harvest being the most challenging aspect of hemp farming.

While hemp looks nearly identical to its intoxicating cannabis cousin, Mrs Ridd clarifies that the crop is far from the illegal drug with its naturally low THC levels.   

Hemp seeds are known for their nutritionional properties and mild nutty flavour, with the crop often cold-pressed to produce a nourishing oil for health or cosmetic purposes.

The plant can also be harvested for dual purposes, with certain varieties bred for both seed production and fibre. Hemp was already legal to produce for hempseed oil.

In April 2017, trans-Tasman Ministers approved a change to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to allow the sale of hemp seed as a food for human consumption. But before this could happen, amendments had to be made to current regulations.

It’s really a fantastic crop.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the new rules are great news for the hemp industry.

"Hulled, non-viable seeds and their products will be now be viewed as just another edible seed," says Mr O'Connor. "We will continue to ease pathways for our farmers and growers to produce the finest food and fibre for the world's most discerning customers."

Working in conjunction with The Hemp Farm, the Ridds will also help get more hemp planted around the Manawatu. The ability to sell hemp seed is expected to prompt more farmers to turn to the dual-use crop.

 “It is a great product. It’s really a fantastic crop,” Mrs Ridd said.

Watch the full interview with Jenny Ridd above.

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