This month, the United States has lifted a ban on growing industrial hemp for human consumption. In Australia, a ban remains.
Queensland-based industrial hemp company, Ecofibre Industries, says Australia is lagging while the USA surges ahead.
EcoFibre managing director Philip Warner says several US states are pushing ahead with hemp fibre and oil growing projects since the US Farm Bill Hemp Amendment was passed on February 7.
He says Australia has lost the opportunity to export hemp foods and industrial products to the USA and Asia.
Mr Warner just returned from America and says Australia has almost missed the opportunity to sell home-grown hemp technology and knowledge into the Americas as well.
“My next trip, which is in a month’s time, I go to Colorado, California, and then down to Uruguay, where I’ve been very much involved in the new legislation they’ve put through there.
“So really the whole of the Americas is coming on board.
“I would have hoped we would have been ahead of the US and taking advantage of our early position.
“We’ve lost that position.
“We did have the chance to set the standard for what American farmers would have to match up to.
“We’ve got a very innovative farming sector, and we’ve been leading research, development and commercialisation of the industrial hemp supply chain.
“We’ve lost that opportunity with the significant restrictions and complete and absolute crazy concept about the Hemp Foods Bill, which we still haven’t passed after 15 years.”
The latest communique from the Australian and New Zealand Ministers responsible for food regulation states they require further investigation by FSANZ of potential issues relating to the use of low-THC hemp in food products.
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, says there are still opportunities for an industrial hemp and food industry in Australia and legislative progress in Australia is being made.
“I was a part of the Food Council meeting last December that considered the latest process.
“It wasn’t a decision-making meeting.
“It was to receive some information and to accept that.
“The final report from that process will come back to our meeting in June this year, so there are a number of pieces of work that are yet to be finalised.
“There is an opportunity for the growth of that industry here in Australia, I believe.
“But it’s a matter of that final process being completed, and that will occur, as I understand it, in June this year.”