NSW alkaloid poppy crop to double in 2018, could top $100m by 2027

Six farms across the Riverina, Hunter, and Central West – kept secret for security reasons – took part in planting and growing the first NSW poppy crops in 2017, after the NSW government had legalised the crop the year before. Footage via DPI.
Six farms across the Riverina, Hunter, and Central West – kept secret for security reasons – took part in planting and growing the first NSW poppy crops in 2017, after the NSW government had legalised the crop the year before. Footage via DPI.

The state’s first first alkaloid poppy crop harvest was so successful that production is expected to more than double in 2018.  

Six farms across the Riverina, Hunter, and Central West – kept secret for security reasons – took part in planting and growing the first NSW poppy crops in 2017, after the NSW government had legalised the crop the year before. 

More than 400 hectares has been stripped and chemically analysed. 

TPI industries harvesting a crop near Cootamundra. Footage via DPI.

TPI industries harvesting a crop near Cootamundra. Footage via DPI.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said while poppies were a demanding crop that required diligent farmers, he expected the NSW industry to expand up to $100 million in the next decade 

Related

“(It has) given farmers a new option as part of their annual crop rotation and a new potential income stream,” Mr Blair said.”

For a long time Tasmania was the nation’s sole commercial poppy-producing powerhouse, having introduced poppies in the 1970s. The industry has since been legalised in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory. 

Victorian farmers have not fared as well with their crops since 2014, with many walking away.

Competition from other states, and a global oversupply, has also hurt Tasmanian growers. 

For NSW, the future looks bright. 

DPI granted six licences in the Riverina and Central West this year. It has already received strong interest from more growers for 2018 with production expected to spike. 

Farmers involved in the inaugural crop, such as Cootamundra’s David Forsyth, reported a yield that was nearly 50 per cent better than canola, at “just over two tonne per hectare.”

The alkaloid content was a respectable 3.6 per cent despite a tough growing year. 

Mr Forsyth told The Daily Advertiser he would be increasing his planting from 23 to 38 hectares this year.

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, including codeine, morphine, and thebaine. 

The crop is recognised as hard work, as it requires more spray than wheat and is sensitive to too much soil moisture. NSW government has strict compliance, agronomy, monitoring, and security requirements attached to the crop, including signage and maintaining a visitor guest book. Footage via DPI.

The crop is recognised as hard work, as it requires more spray than wheat and is sensitive to too much soil moisture. NSW government has strict compliance, agronomy, monitoring, and security requirements attached to the crop, including signage and maintaining a visitor guest book. Footage via DPI.

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 half of the world’s opiate market. Only eight companies worldwide that process poppies for opiate manufacturing and three of them are based here in Australia.

Security signs at David Forsyth's farm.

Security signs at David Forsyth's farm.

The crop is recognised as hard work, as it requires more spray than wheat and is sensitive to too much soil moisture. NSW government has strict compliance, agronomy, monitoring, and security requirements attached to the crop, including signage and maintaining a visitor guest book. 

With The Daily Advertiser