New crops blooming for our farmers
New South Wales farmers are set to tap into the multi-billion dollar opioid pain relief market, with the first poppy crops beginning to germinate in the Central West.
After a fight from the Nationals to legalise poppy development, farmers in NSW now have access to access to the high-value, global alkaloid industry adding another dimension to our thriving agriculture sector.
Previously, only grown in Tasmania, NSW was identified as a key growing region for this sensitive crop, and now 200 hectares of poppies planted at five farms in secret locations across the Central West and Hunter regions are beginning to take off.
“The NSW Government is delighted to have given the ‘green light' for poppies to be safely and securely grown, it provides regional NSW with another new high-value industry,” said Minister for Primary Industries and Nationals MLC Niall Blair.
The crop is highly regulated at all levels of Government. Under Niall’s leadership, the NSW Department of Primary Industries worked with farmers and stakeholders to pass the Poppy Industry Bill 2016 and associated Poppy Industry Regulation 2017 allowing NSW farmers to access the alkaloid market, which is anticipated to grow by $100 million over the next 10 years.
New crops like the poppy enable farmers to rotate their plantings and ensure cash flow year round. While poppies are a relatively intense crop requiring irrigation and high levels of nutrients due to their shallow root system, farmers can make profits off small plantings, with most poppy crops no more than 20 hectares (approximately 50 acres) in size. If successful, the first NSW poppy crops are expected to be harvested this October.
Another new crop being successfully trialled in NSW is quinoa (keen-wah). With the first crops in Leeton ready for harvest, Niall Blair visited the farm with Nationals Member for Murray, Adrian Piccoli.
Originally from South America, quinoa burst onto the food scene as a ‘super-food’ and is now a staple in houses and lunch boxes across the country. The market for quinoa is seeing significant worldwide shortages, giving Australian farmers an opportunity to fill this demand. It is just another string to the bow of NSW agriculture, with the crop able to fit easily into established broad-acre practices.
“Management of quinoa growing is similar to canola and other small-seeded crops, and this project will also work to further refine agronomic practices including nutrition, irrigation, and pest and weed management,” said Adrian.
Yet again, NSW farmers prove they are dynamic and innovative in the field. The Nationals will continue to push for more opportunities for our farmers at all levels of Government.
Editor's Note: It remains illegal to take, use, sell or grow poppies without a licence in NSW. Illegal possession of opiate poppy plant parts or substances derived from them is a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties.