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Hemp-growing trial to be sited in Catlins Project attracting worldwide interest

Posted on June 21, 2004

Tawanui, New Zealand — A trial industrial hemp crop, which is already attracting worldwide interest, will be planted in the Catlins later this year.

New Zealand Hemp Industries Association president Mac McIntosh and his wife Donna will oversee the project on a 2 hectare parcel of their Tawanui farm, about 12 kilometers south of Owaka. Planting will begin in late September with the first harvest expected in March next year.

The project, which Mr McIntosh terms as a “proof of concept,” will aim to prove the venture can be economic. There has been strong interest from Asian and European companies keen to exploit some of hemp’s skincare by-products. He has a growing licence and has devoted much of the past decade to finding out all about hemp, its qualities and its usefulness.

One crop will be grown on behalf of the International Hemp Association, Hortafarm, another will grow seed for skincare and soap manufacture, and one will use new cultivars developed in trials with Massey University.

Hemp was a controversial crop because of its relationship to cannabis. Mr McIntosh was the first to admit the public already had a perception but it was “uninformed”.

He was deliberately being very open about his project and its locality to encourage more public debate about the issue of hemp.

His concept of a hemp cottage farm, at Tawanui, is devoted to growing hemp seeds to be used to produce soaps and oils. Three separate cultivars will be bred in separate areas of the block as the couple look to develop foodstuffs and other by-products for commercial sale.

The couple, who once lived in the Catlins, hope to return to the area permanently and expand the operation over time.

Mr McIntosh said the area’s lattitude (46.5° south) meant it was potentially one of the best hemp-growing areas in the world. It lined up exactly to a large hemp-growing belt in the northern hemisphere. Its location meant the seeds got the exact exposure to sunlight they needed.

Copyright © 2004, Otago Daily Times. All rights reserved.