The first alkaloid poppy crops grown in NSW have now been harvested and were so successful that production is expected to more than double this year.
Six farms across the Riverina and Central West, including one located between Cowra and Gooloogong, took part in growing the first NSW poppy crops.
Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair said the successful harvest in NSW was a significant milestone.
“We passed the legislation in 2016, farmers planted the seeds in the ground the following season and now we can all celebrate a successful harvest this is a huge win for our primary producers and the regional NSW economy,” he said.
“Our reforms have given farmers a new option as part of their annual crop rotation and a new potential income stream.
“The beauty of NSW is our growing conditions are so diverse we have irrigation, but we also have soil and climatic zones, which makes it a really good way to spread the risk when it comes to a new crop like poppies.
“We don’t just see Tasmania as being a dominate provider of the poppy market, we know that NSW can actually participate, and I think it could be worth up to $100 million to our farmers over the next ten years,” he said.
Michael Long, Director of Agriculture for TPI enterprises, also agreed the NSW crop was a huge success.
“We’re really pleased with how the first year of poppy growing in NSW has gone, we are really happy with the yields and the alkaloid levels,” he said.
“The future of the industry in NSW is very positive, following on from this season, we’ve already contracted significant quantities of land for next year.
“Which is really unsurpassed in terms of having that pre-commitment at this time of the year.
“It’s a testement that the crop is a very viable winter cropping option, giving really good returns and giving farmers another cropping option,” he said.
After the poppies are harvested, they are transported to a specialised facility where alkaloids are extracted, isolated and purified. The alkaloids are then formulated into medication for use as pain relief.
Opiate-based medications, derived from processed alkaloid poppies, have a wide range of uses, including pain relief, palliative care and anti-addiction medications.
Australia currently supplies more than 50% of the world’s opiate market. There are only eight companies worldwide that process poppies for opiate manufacturing and three of them are based here in Australia.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries is overseeing the licensing, cultivation, and management of poppy crops in NSW.
It remains illegal to take, use, sell or grow poppies without a licence in NSW. Illegal possession of opiate plant parts or substances derived from them is a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties.