The state government’s boost to loosen THC levels in the hemp industry could not have come at a better time for Busselton hemp farmers.
Vasse Valley owner Bronwyn Blake said the amendment to allow hemp to be grown with a THC content of up to one per cent was fantastic.
Hemp farmers were restricted to the Industrial Hemp Act which only permitted hemp with a THC content below 0.35 per cent.
Ms Blake said while most hemp varieties were bred to have low THC levels, under the 0.35 per cent restriction WA hemp farmers were at risk of losing their crop if the plants tested slightly over the limit.
She also said the variety of hemp WA farmers could access had a tendency to go slightly over the limit if the plants became stressed from environmental conditions.
“A lot of the farmers had trouble with their first crops which went slightly over in THC, one farmer had beautiful plants and we thought he would have a bumper crop but it came in at 0.5 per cent THC,” she said.
“He just could not use it and had to import more seeds or get more seeds from another farmer.
“To go from 0.35 to one per cent is such a massive increase and comes just before testing occurs in the next few weeks.”
Food Standards and Australia and New Zealand Code permits the sale of food products derived from hemp seed with a THC content of up to one per cent.
Amending legislation on maximum THC concentration brings the WA industry in line with national standards and is expected to increase the number of varieties available for industrial hemp production.
“I am really happy WA has come to the table so quickly,” Ms Blake said.
Vasse Valley hemp farmers roast seeds from the plants to give it a really intense flavour. The farmers then work with other food producers to make roasted hemp seed food and beverages.
“We wanted to do something we were passionate about and would not be too laborious, and hemp seemed to tick all the boxes,” she said.
“We took a big risk growing something there was not a lot or any of market for.”
Since hemp foods were legalised in Australia, Ms Blake said there had been a lot of interest from the state government about what they do.
“There are not a lot of facts and figures about how it grows in WA, we had one crop which went well then another one that failed,” she said.
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said interest in WA’s hemp industry had never been higher.
“The first WA hemp food and drink products are appearing in the market, and we want to support development of this job-creating industry,” she said.
“We see real potential for a scale-up of hemp production in WA to commercial levels, helping to create jobs in agriculture and processing right across the regions.”