Tuesday, 03 December 2019 13:55

Hemp growers aiming high

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Dave Jordan, HempFarm NZ chief executive and founder director. Dave Jordan, HempFarm NZ chief executive and founder director.

New regulatory changes are forcing some horticulture and dairy farmers to look at a new crop – hemp.

About 1300ha are now assigned by growers across New Zealand for the 2020 hemp crop.

HempFarm NZ founder Dave Jordan hopes the 2021 crop will increase four-fold.

“Who knows, it could be more if we can sell our story well to the New Zealand public and business sector,” Jordan told Rural News.

He says hemp cultivation has good environmental credentials: it requires much less water than most crops.

“I think our industry will get a lot of support on water use once it is seen for what it really is: a must grow crop that uses a lot less water than many other crops.”

A new processing plant is planned for Christchurch next year to supply hemp and hemp/wool blended yarns, non-woven materials for eco-plastics, hemp matting and insulation and other products.

HempFarm NZ is funded by private equity. Jordan is ruling out a public listing anytime soon.

“Any talk of a listing is premature at this stage as we are so focused on setting up our infrastructure and supply chains,” he said. “We do not have anything to add about when or if a public listing would take place.”

Jordan says the benefits of a booming hemp sector will extend to construction, food and agriculture.

“The wonderful thing about hemp is that it’s bigger than any sector because it fits with every other sector and helps reach the sustainable and compliance challenges every sector is facing. 

“Yes, we are expecting to set aside more land for hemp cultivation, and to pushing the limits matching markets with cropping -- pushing and urging markets to buy into the industry by purchasing products.”

Jordan is urging more farmers to give hemp cultivation a try.

“Be a part of a new industry that offers many options by way of planting, harvesting and choices in the value chain and markets. 

“Other advice would be to consider the infrastructure required. There are so many variables and challenges to be learnt no matter how good a cropper you are.”

Wairarapa farmer Richard Kershaw, Moiki Farms, says hemp cultivation looks promising at this stage compared to other conventional crops such as wheat, barley, and ryegrass seed.

Asked about its financial viability, Kershaw says he won’t know until the 2020 crop is harvested.

Jenny Ridd, JJ Farming, will harvest her third crop in February next year.

She says consumer understanding of the health benefits is growing quickly and they are confident there will be huge consumer demand as awareness of the multiple benefits and uses grows.

“We totally believe it is a great crop for the environment and it fits in with our farming strategy. There is much to learn. This year we installed a drying facility and each year we continue to improve.”

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