NSW’s first opium poppy crop harvest under way in Riverina

NSW poppy crop in bloom earlier this year. Picture: Contributed Acrosssix top-secret locations in the Riverina and Central West, a historic harvest is underway.

BLOOMING INDUSTRY: David Forsyth on his Cootamundra farm with a TPI Enterprises drone for crop mapping. Picture: Contributed

Over 400 hectares of the state’s first ever opium poppy cropis being stripped and chemically analysed.Cootamundra mixed-farmerDavid Forsyth sowed24 hectares of the plant in June.

“It went really well,it was a bit short of 50 per cent better thanthe canola which didjust over twotonne per hectare,” Mr Forsyth said.

“The alkaloid content was 3.6 per cent, wethought we might do four, but it was aterrible season;cold and after sowing it didn’t rain for fourmonths.”

Poppy crops grown on fertile soils by the best growers in Tasmaniatypically yield three tonnes per hectare and assay more than 3 per cent.

“While the market will ultimately dictate the success of the industry in NSW, the NSW government is pleased to have passed the legislation that enables the growing of poppies in NSW, giving farmers a potential alternative crop that was not previously available,”a spokeswoman from Primary Industries MinisterNiall Blair’s office said.

“The DPIis aware of strong interest from farmers considering applying for licences for 2018.

“However, it needs to be stressed that obtaining a licence is dependent on meeting the strict requirements involved.”

The venturecould return an estimated $100 million to NSW in the next decade. However, the global oversupply of opiate material put great pressure on Tasmanian growers last year,andthe lackluster performance of the crop in Victoria, who legalised it in2014,has reportedly seen a number of farmersditching it altogether. ButMr Forsyth still believes it has potential.

“We’re increasing andwill do 38 hectares next year, I’velearnt a lot and couldn’t have done it without the help of my wife Janelle, my son Brendan andhis wife Ruby,”he said.

“It’s a tricky crop to grow, you need to be compromising.”

The department encourage farmers “to carefully consider the financial implications of poppy production for their individual circumstances.”

Daily Advertiser, Wagga

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