Government gets behind local growers

Janelle Saffin MP says the Minns Labor Government is getting behind the emerging rice and hemp industries on the Northern Rivers, potentially benefitting local growers accessing new markets.

Monthly Janelle Saffin column, May 2024

THERE are two emerging crops that have an exciting future in our region – hemp and rice – and the NSW Government is getting behind both industries to help them move ahead.

In great news for the rice industry the Government will introduce legislation in May for a new rice export marketing and trade arrangement for Northern Rivers rice growing.

Up to now the local industry has been unable to export because all rice exports had to be done through the SunRice in southern NSW.  The distance from the Northern Rivers to the SunRice facilities made access to export markets unviable. It is also patently unfair.  I could not understand why such a system was allowed to prevail, that disadvantaged our own rice growers.

I have been working with local rice growers on this for years and lobbying on their behalf, so this is a most welcome development  and opens up opportunities for expansion.

Tony Carusi has led the charge on behalf of local rice growers, and I know that he is over the moon. 

In NSW more than 97% or rice is grown in the Murrumbidgee, Coleambally and Murray irrigation areas. In the Northern Rivers rice is grown on waterlogged land that is not well suited to other farming enterprises, and there are substantial areas of waterlogged river floodplain where rice provides a greatcropping option.

The legislation means that from September 1 Northern Rivers famers will be able to organise their own arrangement for exporting rice and not have to go through the vesting arrangements binding them to southern NSW. Yes, we have to get the legislation through the parliament but fairness must be the primary consideration here.

Hemp Industry Taskforce

The Northern Rivers region has a long association with hemp growing. The annual Nimbin Mardi-Grass is on again this month with its ongoing campaign for cannabis legalisation.

Meanwhile there are developments in the legal hemp growing industry. This year the NSW Government set up the Hemp Industry Taskforce to support the expansion of the NSW industrial hemp sector.

This is part of the Government’s work to future-proof agricultural production and support growers across all sectors.

The Taskforce was established following the NSW Hemp Industry Roundtable last year hosted by NSW Legislative Council member Jeremy Buckingham.

The Hemp Industry Taskforce includes twelve representatives from growers and industry associations, and I am pleased to see the inclusion of industry experts and leaders from the Northern Rivers:

  • Andrew Kavasilas – the founder of Medical Cannabis Ltd,
  • Tobias Kretzschmar – Professor for plant breeding and genetics at SCU
  • Klara Marosszeky- the CEO of Australian Hemp Masonry and
  • Crystal White, director of Northern Rivers Hemp Growers Co-op

The taskforce has been meeting every month since February and its work plan includes considering:

  • Market opportunities
  • The role of industrial hemp in transition to net zero
  • Identifying legislative barriers to expanding industrial hemp production
  • Research and development

The taskforce will only consider cultivation and supply of low-THC hemp grown under the NSW Industrial Hemp Act 2008. The Act facilitates cultivation and supply of low THC hemp fibre and seed production in NSW under controlled conditions.

We know that hemp also captures carbon and the science I have read indicates at a larger rate than forestry. So this is a welcome addition and we need all these cropping options for themselves and the by product is carbon storage.  Hemp is a great value-add product and paper, clothes, construction materials and more can be made from it.

I am pleased that the NSW Government and in particular AgricultureMinister Tara Moriarty is supporting the expansion of this climate friendly industry – with great opportunities for local agriculture, manufacturing, and local jobs.

Caption: Janelle Saffin MP and Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty at the Natural Rice Company Kyogle with Steve Rogers, Nelson Green and Nathan Green.