Monto's hemp plan up in smoke?

PLAN STALLED: The plan to make Monto a key growing and processing centre for Queensland’s emerging $10 million commercial hemp industry has been stalled by slow government decison-making.
PLAN STALLED: The plan to make Monto a key growing and processing centre for Queensland’s emerging $10 million commercial hemp industry has been stalled by slow government decison-making.

THE push to reignite struggling Monto by making it a key growing and processing centre for Queensland's emerging $10 million commercial hemp industry has been stalled by government red tape.

Back in June, Central Telegraph reported Bundaberg company Agri Fibre Industries (AFI), which had been working on the project since 1998, was ready to move to commercial production, with Monto as a processing and growing centre and the research and breeding staff in Bundaberg.

For industrial hemp to be approved for food consumption in Australia, an application must be processed through the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (ANZFRMC), which is still considering its decision.

AFI has also made a request to the State Government to consider changing its legislation to sell hemp food products for export, with an inter-departmental working group set up to look at the request.

John Hall, managing director at AFI, said he was frustrated no decision had been made by the working group over the past three months.

“I think they are a stalling party, not a working party,” Mr Hall said.

 “The premier said she wanted value adding production and regional processing – we fall into both for the North Burnett.”

There are two main uses for hemp – industrial use in glass and buildings and food, such as seeds and drinks.

Mr Hall said he was in discussions with investors but the project hinged on funding and government approval.

“It's the case of the chicken and the egg,” he said.

“It could get all too hard and take too long.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation said Queensland had a small number of industrial hemp growers, who were licensed to grow industrial hemp for textiles but not food.

“While the Queensland Government supports the development of new industries, particularly those that provide employment opportunities in regional Queensland, there are matters which need to be worked through in relation to any legislative change proposals regarding industrial hemp as a food for Australian consumption and for export,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said AFI's request, along with related matters, was being considered by the working group.

“Other matters being considered include Australian Government legislation, Customs regulations and Australian Government treaties and compliance arrangements.

“This highlights the complexity of the legislative and regulatory changes that may be required before any approval was given,” the spokesperson said.

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