Victoria eager for a bigger hemp industry
Hemp is a "wonder fibre" which can be used to create everything from socks to roof tiles, rather than a drug, a swag of Victorian politicians say.
The Andrews Labor government is hoping to ramp up the state's hemp industry, with a new cross-party task force to investigate where it has potential and whether regulations should be changed to support its growth.
It will also tackle the public image of hemp as a drug, which prevents some farmers from growing the plant and others from buying products made from it, Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes says.
"There's definitely public perception work that we need to do...hemp is not a drug, hemp is a wonder fibre that can be used for a range of materials," she told reporters on Thursday.
Currently, 45 businesses have a licence to grow the industrial plant in the state, signed off by Agriculture Victoria.
"It's important to have restrictions and regulations around the industry, but we want to make sure that the barriers are as low as possible for people to enter," Ms Symes said.
Independent MP for Mildura Ali Cupper - who is also on the task force - said growing hemp so far hasn't been part of the state's agricultural "DNA".
But more farmers have been approaching her about the water-efficient crop as dry condition have taken hold.
Fellow task force member and Reason Party Leader Fiona Patten said the recent easing of hemp regulations in the US makes their work important.
"This will change the international market and Victoria is now on the front foot to exploit that."
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