STRUGGLING Monto could play a key part in developing Queensland’s emerging $10 million commercial hemp industry by becoming a key growing and processing centre.
John Hall, managing director at Bundaberg company Agri Fibre Industries (AFI), told Central Telegraph it had been working on the project since 1998 and was ready to move to commercial production.
“We are talking with potential investors who are close to making a decision,” Mr Hall said.
“We have looked at Monto as a processing and growing centre and keeping the research and breeding staff in Bundaberg.
“We have a number of keen growers in the North Burnett with the soil and infrastructure to plant this spring.”
The Monto Fresh sheds and old butter factory have been named as potential sites for processing plants.
There are two main uses for hemp – industrial use in glass and buildings and food such as seeds and drinks.
“Our main focus will be on industrial uses for fibre; for example, ropes, canvas, fibre matting to replace glass fibres in composites, and fibre as an additive to concrete for building non support walls.
“The food business will focus on hemp seed protein products and health drinks.”
The sale of hemp food is illegal in Australia, unlike most western countries.
An application must be processed through Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) for consideration by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (ANZFRMC), which is the final decision-making authority. An application for industrial hemp to be approved for use as a food is currently with FSANZ, and once it has completed its consideration, its recommendations will be forwarded to ANZFRMC.
A State Government spokesperson said the submission was being considered by a government working group with several representatives from various State Government departments.
THE ROPE AND THE DOPE
There are two types of hemp or Cannabis sativa.
Both contain a psychoactive chemical “THC” (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
Industrial hemp, used to make rope and canvas etc, contains less than 1 per cent THC and has no psychotropic properties.
High THC varieties (between 3-20 per cent) are produced illegally and products from these varieties are known as marijuana.