Poppy cropping gets green light

WIMMERA farming leaders believe State Government legislation to allow controlled commercial alkaloid poppy cropping in Victoria could boost the Wimmera’s agricultural profitability.

The government introduced legislation on Wednesday that means alkaloid poppies can be grown and harvested on a commercial scale as early as the 2014 growing season for the production of pain relief medication.

Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said he believed poppies could create a $100-million industry for the state within a decade.

Under current legislation, the cultivation of alkaloid poppies in Victoria is prohibited with the exception of strictly controlled experimental trials.

Thirteen trials are underway throughout north-west and south-west Victoria, including in the Wimmera.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president David Jochinke said anything that could potentially boost profitability was a positive step.

“Poppies is a pretty interesting crop in itself, with the regulation that goes with it and what it’s used for,” he said.

“There is no reason why it wouldn’t fit into our rotation, other than making sure we get enough moisture to grow it.

“As far as I know, heat can affect it a bit too. I am not sure how suitable it is to our climate, but any crops like that could potentially be a positive for the area.

“I will be interested to see the results of the trials in this region.”

The government hopes poppy cropping will support its goal of doubling Victoria’s food and fibre production by 2030.

“That’s the aspiration. Of course if we were to grow poppies they would potentially be displacing another crop, unless they put it on other land such as pastoral ground,” Mr Jochinke said.

“You would be increasing one crop but reducing another.

“But it’s a great aspiration. I would like to see the government do what it can to support producers to achieve that, such as making sure there is good infrastructure and no blockages in the production system.”

Victorian Farmers Federation Wimmera branch president and Warracknabeal farmer Ross Johns welcomed the opportunity to grow poppies.

“The broader our agricultural base and the more choice we have, the better off the Wimmera will be,” he said.

Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is running six poppy trials in Victoria.

Other companies are running seven small-scale research trials in Victoria.

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