China might be one of the world’s biggest producers of hemp, but the quality of the crop is low compared to Australian imports, according to one of the first hemp farmers Down Under.
Colin Buckler, owner of Victoria-based G.R.E.E.N. Hemp, says it’s only a matter of time and resource before he takes his brand of homegrown hemp to this vast potential market.
“Even though China grows its own, there is a market for Australian hemp because of our quality. Based on research, the oil from China is not exactly up to food grade standards,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“As Australia trades on its safety and quality, our hemp is a big draw for the Chinese market, where food safety is always an issue.”
Unfortunately for Buckler, G.R.E.E.N. Hemp, which was established in the late ‘Eighties, is not yet in a position to capitalise on China’s market after he was forced to rebuild his home and business five years ago as a result of the “Black Saturday” bush fires that ravaged the area around his country property.
He currently produces between six and eight tonnes of hempseed oil per year, but this is increasing fast, largely so that his company can be in a position to fulfil the orders it often receives from Asia.
“We hope to increase our supply capacity for the Asian market. Recently, we had to turn down a 10-tonne order from Korea because we didn’t have the capacity to supply to them,” he said.
“We are also interested in China but at the moment, we wouldn’t be able to supply large quantities until we increase production. But that will change over time. Currently, our business mainly supplies the Australian market; though overseas, we’ve mostly dealt with retail to Singapore and wholesale to Japan.”
Buckler’s hemp is entirely produced on his own land, though he cautions customers to look at a product’s provenance before committing to buy.
“There are a lot of Australian-based newcomers that import hemp from China but market their products as Australian certified,” he continued.
“The current legislation in Australia has been keeping local businesses like ours from diversifying into the food and supplement industry. The government doesn’t support hemp food yet though most countries allow human consumption of hemp for its health benefits. We can only sell it for external consumption here in Australia.”
It’s hard for producers like Buckler to get going within the government’s regulatory framework, which suggests why Asia is such an important market for Australian hemp growers, but Buckler remains optimistic on future domestic applications.
“The government has been talking about changing the legislation for the last two years and hopefully things might change in the next six to eight months.”
Hemp oil, which is obtained by pressing hemp seeds. In food applications, The oil is of high nutritional value because of its three-to-one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids, which matches the balance required by the human body. Scientists estimate that just 15 ml of hempseed oil provides the complete daily requirement for essential fatty acids.