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Hemp Could Give Wool A New Lease

Posted on January 21, 2000

By Emily Murphy, Rural Life Newspaper

Australia — Hemp is destined to give wool a new life provided the industry can get off the ground in Australia.

Trials of industrial hemp across the country, seeking to establish the crop in Australia, have met with only mediocre success.

But it is believed that hemp and wool should blend well with compatible staples and the strength and moisture absorption of hemp able to enhance wool.

Australian Hemp Resource and Manufacture company managing director Phil Warner said the similar lengths of wool and hemp fibres would make them compatible for blending.

He wants to see wool “back on the board” and believes the hemp industry could help with the rise of wool on the world market.

“It’s one of the longest and strongest organic fibres known to man and it has a high moisture absorption content, making it suitable for babies’ nappies, sanitary napkins and cotton wool type products,” he said.

“Certain types of hemp crops, grown under the correct conditions, will provide fibres that have a similar staple length to wool, but with a finer micron level.”

He said there was a healthy outlook towards the relationship between hemp and wool from some Italian spinners.

And research by a company in Victoria and the development of a new harvester for the crop meant it was becoming more viable to use hemp as a fibre because of its new cost structure.

“The synergy between the two could be quite rewarding.”

Mr Warner said while State Governments have permitted trials of hemp, legislation in Australia has banned the plant, and not the drug, and to change existing legislation, parties would have to go through parliament again.

Mr Warner said there were 2000 different cultivars of hemp and only 6% to 10% were true drug-bearing plants.

“Because of the complexity of legislation it’s going to be a very courageous government that looks beyond the kneejerk reaction of some uninformed voters to give this industry and in turn regional Australia the opportunity to get back on its feet.”

Despite opposition from synthetics and chemical companies, the hemp industry in Australia is slowly moving forward. There are only 3000 to 4000 hectares of hemp planted with each requiring a permit.

The demise of the hemp industry over the last 60 years was due to an outlook that organics were “dirty” and technology did not move with hemp, many producers still operating the same way they did five decades ago.

“Let’s just start again in Australia and get some regional development while we have the opportunity,” Mr Warner said.

Copyright © 2000. Rural Life Newspaper. All rights reserved.