West Wimmera farmers consider opium poppy crops

WEST Wimmera farmland could be the site of legal opium poppy crops in the future.

The shire’s mayor and Minimay farmer Ron Hawkins believes there is interest from farmers to grow poppies in the area.

The Victorian Farmers Federations grains group conference discussed a potential poppy industry earlier this week.

Grains group president Brett Hosking said farmland in the West Wimmera would be ideal for poppies.

Cr Hawkins said he knew there was interest in the shire.

“I don’t know how far people have progressed but I have heard of people who are interested,” he said.

“We are a strong irrigation area and tick all the boxes for criteria.

“We will watch the developments with interest.”

In December, the State Government introduced legislation to allow alkaloid poppies to be grown and harvested on a commercial scale for the production of pain relief medication.

The industry predicts poppies can deliver gross margins of between $2000 and $4000 a hectare – about three times more than other crops such as barley.

Cr Hawkins said it would be a great opportunity for farmers.

“We are always looking for new crops,” he said.

“From the figures I’ve seen, poppies would be a great opportunity – there could be very good gross margins.”

He said poppy crops would be well received in the area.

“I think it is possible to grow them on dry land as well,” he said.

Federation vice-president and Murra Warra farmer 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.”

Mr Jochinke said growing poppies would potentially mean displacing another crop. 

“They would be increasing one crop but reducing another,” he said.

Poppy trials were done around Elmore and Rochester last year.

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