Nelson, New Zealand — Industrial hemp trials are likely to go ahead in Nelson this spring.
After three years of waiting industrial hemp advocate Brian Coulter of Motueka is delighted with today’s announcement that trials of the fibre crop have been approved by government ministers.
Today Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle said the official working party on industrial hemp had given the go-ahead for trials providing a control framework could be put in place.
“We are now looking at models through which we can achieve those controls,” Ms. Bunkle said.
Proposed trials would be held under either Ministry of Agriculture or Customs control, she said.
Ms. Bunkle said the timing of the trials depended on cooperation between Government and industry.
”Hopefully they’ll be held this growing season, but the practical implications still have to be worked through.”
Health Minister Annette King has also given her support to the trials, provided the regulatory conditions are met, a spokesman for her office said today.
Mr. Coulter heads the Motueka Employment and Small Business Centre which united with other interests three years ago to undertake a government- funded study on the viability of industrial hemp in Nelson.
The report found the crop has potential and recommended trials be undertaken and any commercial plantings go hand-in-hand with the development of parallel industrial processing.
“It’s a bit frustrating it has taken so long and this may have put us behind other international players, but there will still be an internal demand for the product if it is proved to be economically viable,” Mr. Coulter said.
Motueka horticultural scientist and hemp supporter Peter Smale said he would apply to undertake trials as soon as approval was confirmed.
“It’s brilliant,” Mr. Smale said of the approval.
He said the Ministry of Agriculture still had to approve the importation of low-THC hemp seed.
“I want to do proper statistically analysed trials so we can look at product options.”
Motueka hemp advocate Steve Burnett said the decision was “way overdue”.
“Now we have to get MAF dispensation to import seeds.”
Mr. Burnett said he hoped trials would begin this spring.
Green Party MP Rod Donald said he was cautiously optimistic about the approval.
“I’d like to see some plants in the ground, but at least the approval signals people are getting over their irrational fears about hemp.”
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