Poppies a new cropping option

Published on 31 January 2014

Farmers in Loddon Shire have been invited to get in on the ground floor of a new cropping industry said to be destined to reach a value of $100 million within a decade.

Legislation was introduced by the Victorian Government last month to allow Victorian farmers to grow commercial poppy crops as early as this year.

Until now, cultivating alkaloid poppies in Victoria has been prohibited with the exception of small-scale, strictly controlled experimental trials.

Tasmania has been the only state to grow pharmaceutical poppies and it supplies around half the global demand for opiates.

Loddon Shire’s Rural Co-ordination and Development Manager, Brian Hinneberg, said one of Tasmania’s three licensed poppy processors, TPI Enterprises Ltd, was seeking suitable farming partners to grow poppies as part of an on-farm rotational cropping program.

“This is a new opportunity for on-farm diversification of income for local farmers,” Mr Hinneberg said.

“Even better, poppies are a crop which would readily fit into a regular mixed farming regime.

“An information session will be held in Boort on 28 February, during which representatives from TPI Enterprises Ltd will explain the process and answer prospective growers’ questions.

Last year, the Victorian Department of Health approved small research trials of alkaloid poppies in Victoria by the three licensed processors in Australia – GlaxoSmithKline, Tasmanian Alkaloids and TPI Enterprises.

Thirteen such trials are currently under way. They are spread across the state to establish which areas and growing conditions are most suitable.

Once the crop is grown, harvested and analysed, the plant matter will be destroyed.

TPI is keen to see a substantial area sown to poppies in northern Victoria in 2014 with the aim of ensuring security of supply of poppy straw to its extraction and purification facility near Cressy in Tasmania.

TPI, an Australian public company established in 2004, is one of only nine licensed narcotic facilities in the world.

The company employs 70 full-time staff and has been directly responsible for investment in Tasmania of more than $80 million.

To date, TPI has paid $36 million to Tasmanian poppy growers since its licence was granted in 2007.

The company says growing poppies should deliver gross margins of between $2,000 and $4,000 per hectare, depending on crop performance.

To register your interest in attending an information day, please phone Brian Hinneberg on 5494 1200 or email bhinneberg@loddon.vic.gov.au