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Parliamentary Questions


Question Without Notice No. 145 asked in the Legislative Council on 25 May 2021 by Hon Sophia Moermond

Parliament: 41 Session: 1

INDUSTRIAL HEMP

145. Hon SOPHIA MOERMOND to the Minister for Agriculture and Food:

I refer the minister to the comments she made when introducing the Industrial Hemp Amendment Bill 2018, comments with which I wholeheartedly agree, and specifically —

Interest in industrial hemp in Western Australia has never been greater. There are a multitude of end uses for industrial hemp, including food, textiles, building material, paper, cosmetics and biofuel.

Given the minister's enthusiasm, which I share, I take this opportunity to ask the following questions.

(1) Since the passage of the amendment act in 2018, how many companies have applied to the department for licences to cultivate, harvest and/or process industrial hemp here in Western Australia, and how many licences have been granted in urban and rural areas?

(2) How much does the department estimate industrial hemp is currently contributing to the WA economy on an annual basis?

(3) What modelling, if any, has the department undertaken to estimate the potential future income from industrial hemp to the WA economy if the growth rates seen in recent years are maintained or exceeded; and, is the minister able to share any such modelling with the chamber?

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN replied:

I thank the member for her question, acknowledging it is her first question and that, like the other new members, she has got out early from the blocks on her preferred topic.

(1) A total of 104 licences have been granted since that time, of which 93 are still current. This is an increase from the 68 licences that were in existence in 2018. Of the current licences, four are urban and 89 are rural.

(2)–(3) In our assessment, the hemp industry in WA really does need support with breeding and agronomy to be a competitive and viable option for farmers. Our focus is not so much on economic modelling as to the future but on getting down to that grassroots work that needs to be done that has been neglected for the last 50 years. We have trials underway to establish the best varieties, agronomy and systems across the state. Just on Saturday, I inspected our crop at the Frank Wise research station in Kununurra, and a number of the eight varieties we planted this year are looking quite strong.

We are also undertaking multiple varietal trials in Busselton and Manjimup. In response to the industry's request, we have been conducting a trial of hemp forage, looking at the nutritional value and tetrahydrocannabinol accumulation, and it is looking good. The animals are getting the munchies and they are putting on a lot of weight, but they do not seem to be accumulating a lot of THC in their flesh.

We have funded two decorticator projects, especially for building applications. In total, since 2018, we have provided 12 grants to various private sector and not-for-profit industrial hemp projects as well as two very significant grants for medicinal cannabis facilities in the south west. We are very much focused on getting those options, but it is coming a long way behind because very little work has been done over the last 50 years in looking at this very valuable product.