Perseverance leads to hemp approval

Mack McIntosh
Mack McIntosh
The first hemp crop to come from New Zealand seed will be grown in the Catlins this summer in a move its backers believe could open up a new lucrative option for New Zealand farmers.

Long-time industrial hemp campaigner Mack McIntosh has fought officialdom for more than two years to get clearance to grow and market the only New Zealand-manufactured hemp cultivar.

A letter recently arrived in his Tawanui mailbox, confirming the Director-general of Health had approved his "Aotearoa 1" cultivar to be used to grow hemp for industrial purposes.

He likened the news to winning his own Olympic gold medal.

It also means growers no longer have to import seed from Canada to grow commercial hemp crops.

The approval gives New Zealand growers the chance to mass-produce hemp by-products, ranging from clothing and soaps to biofuels.

Mr McIntosh came close to giving up on his battle for permission, but yesterday said he had renewed energy to grow the crop and see hemp become a new export and commercial possibility.

The Clutha Agricultural Development Board has been involved with Mr McIntosh's push for approval and believes hemp crops could provide farmers with an exciting land use alternative, especially in marginal areas where very little other forms of agriculture were possible.

Board spokesman Malcolm Deverson said its membership on the Catlins Industrial Hemp Group would now focus on establishing the Tawanui crop this summer.

Planting would happen towards the end of this year, with the harvest about late March-early April.

The area's latitude (46.5deg south) makes it not only the southernmost hemp-growing area in the world, but offers some of the best growing conditions possible.

Mr McIntosh said he could understand why his application took so long because it was the first of its kind to be considered by health officials.

Mr McIntosh would own the seed stock initially, but he hoped the Catlins group would eventually own it and market it nationwide and globally.

Mr Deverson hoped to promote the hemp seed development to potential users.

He also believed several farmers might be interested in growing small hemp crops in the south, offering the catalyst to develop a new agricultural economy.


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