Anything that we can do, besides grow wheat, has to be a good thing.Mark Hoskinson
RIVERINA producers are getting their first insights into growing opium poppies which could return an estimated $100 million to NSW in the next decade.
Traditionally the poppy industry, known for the important role it plays in producing key ingredients for pharmaceuticals, has been isolated to the island state of Tasmania.
The Tasmanian industry is worth about $290 million a year and allows primary producers to diversify from the traditional food and fibre production. NSW Farmers Wagga branch chairman and Borambola landholder Alan Brown the crop would offer enormous positives for the entire Riverina. He said farmers were well known for passing on any windfalls and spending within communities.
“It’s a high-value industry and the worldwide demand is enormous, this could be a lucrative industry for our region,” he said. In Tasmania the industry is heavily regulated with many security measures in place. Mr Brown believed the Riverina had the ability to grow a “secure” crop.
Mark Hoskinson of “Fernleigh”, Kikoira said he was keen to learn more about the agronomic side of growing poppies. “Anything that we can do, besides grow wheat, has to be a good thing,” he said. Primary Industries minister Niall Blair, confirmed that one of the first crops, which is growing in an undisclosed location, was flowering.
“This is the first time we’ve seen a paddock of commercially-grown opiate poppies in full bloom in NSW,” Mr Blair said.
“When the NSW Government changed the law in 2016, it was because we saw the potential here for producers and for patients in need,” he said.
More than 400 hectares of opiate poppies have been planted in the Central West and the Riverina and are on track to be harvested this season. NSW DPI is overseeing the cultivation, processing and movement of alkaloid poppy material that is being grown under the six licences.