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Hemp has no psychoactive effect and is considered a source of fibre and oil from its proteins, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.
Midlands Seed and Midlands Nutritional Oils director Andrew Davidson will be one of the speakers at New Zealand's first iHemp summit in Wellington in early July.
He said the demand for cold-pressed hemp seed oil was being fuelled by interest in its beneficial health properties. Mid Canterbury already had 15 to 20 farmers growing hemp.
The summit was planned because of the global interest in hemp business opportunities and fuelled by changing legislation. The organisers want to explore the potential for New Zealand to be the best in the world at growing and using hemp for food, fibre and medicine.
''It's rich in essential fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, Omega 3) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA),'' Mr Davidson said.
''These are the sort of specialty products that are also attracting the rapidly growing market of vegetarian and vegan consumers looking for new protein sources,'' he said.
''There is enormous potential in hemp food products and the market is growing around 25% year on year.
''Legislative changes that will allow other hemp seed based foods will open up new sources of income and markets for the crop, potentially tripling plantings in the next few years,'' he said.
NZ Hemp Industries Association Inc (NZHIA) treasurer and chairman of the iHemp Summit Richard Barge said the country had a ''fantastic opportunity'' to create a new primary industry based on hemp, and now was the time for informed discussion.
''iHemp is being recognised as a sustainable source of food, fibre and medicine and this creates opportunities for companies to make it part of their future business plan and be part of what is projected by some analysts to be a $NZ75billion global industry by 2025.''
The iHemp Summit was open to companies, farmers, scientists, funders, community leaders, economic development representatives, regulators and others wanting to look at opportunities to collaboratively develop the New Zealand industrial hemp economy.
Experts speaking at the summit would share local and international knowledge on hemp, identify local and export opportunities available to companies entering the industry, highlight barriers to success within the market and develop strategies and relationships that would help the industry to overcome them.
-By Toni Williams