According to the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance (AIHA), “In Australia, industrial hemp is a plant or any part of a plant (including seed), from the genus Cannabis, that has been specifically bred to have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in the leaves and flowering heads of not more than 1%”.
Industrial hemp is cultivated for seed or fibre production. Hemp fibre and pulp can be used in industrial and consumer textiles, paper and building materials. Hemp seed and hemp seed oil can be used in industrial products, cosmetics and food products.
Hemp’s potential to sequester and retire carbon is unmatched. The AIHA is working with carbon farming groups and academic institutions to establish a methodology for hemp farmers to measure hemp derived soil carbon. If hemp derived carbon is correctly priced, it is estimated the industry could generate A$18 million, with farmers being the major beneficiaries.
Enormous potential exists in use of the green parts of the hemp plant as human food. Leaves, shoots and roots have been shown to have positive nutritional benefits, but at the present time they cannot be legally consumed. The AIHA has been involved in a submission to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) to change the law. The hemp food market is estimated to have a retail value of A$15 million at present. Changing the law could see it doubling.
In the animal feed industry, research is being conducted in Western Australia (WA) and Tasmania in feeding hemp stalk to ruminants. Results from WA are very encouraging. In trials with sheep it has been shown that animals are healthy and maintain weight gain when being fed hemp pellets.
Hemp building is increasing and industry estimates are that 220 houses have been built using hemp concrete. WA now has a dedicated processing facility and houses are being built using locally produced, organically grown, industrial hemp. However, hemp fibre is still an industry that needs a serious investment to reach any kind of meaningful size.
The Australian Hemp Council is a seven-member national peak body, formed in June 2020, bringing together representatives of the seven state and territory Industrial Hemp Associations. The members of the council are working to drive policies that will foster productivity of the Australian Hemp Industry with a specific focus on improving the industry’s capacity to compete at a global level, thus ensuring long term sustainability of a profitable industry.