Cairns man Mark Green who would like to see hemp grown instead of sugar cane in the far north . PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Cairns man Mark Green who would like to see hemp grown instead of sugar cane in the far north . PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

Billion-dollar potential in FNQ hemp industry

A BILLION-DOLLAR hemp industry in Far North Queensland is just waiting for governments and growers to get on board.

That is what Mark Green believes anyway, and he wants those men and women in the corridors of power to stop and listen.

The former mining surveyor has made it his personal mission to kickstart a lucrative new agriculture industry focusing on giving indigenous traditional owners power over their futures.

"My dream is to have people in community building their own houses with hemp," he said.

Eventually with 3D printing they can be designing and sending products all over the world.

"Hemp is also found to be a better conductor and superconductor than anything else, so there will be batteries made out of hemp one day. The opportunities are endless."

The aptly-named Mr Green, who lives in Edmonton, runs the NQ Hemp group on Facebook.

He has made contact with every candidate for Leichhardt in the upcoming federal election but said only independent Chad Anderson showed any real enthusiasm for his push.

FNQ Growers chairman Joe Moro said it was a matter of money and regulations, with growers confused about what is allowed.

Industrial hemp is only legal to grow in Australia under a licence issued by the State Government.

Growers must open up to inspections from the State Government to ensure their strains of hemp are low in THC - the chemical that gets smokers high.

Edible hemp seeds were also legalised for sale in 2017, and Mr Green now eats a handful or so every day.

But the cost-benefit ratio remains the chief question on growers' lips.

"If there's a crop and farmers can make a dollar out of it, they will," Mr Moro said.

"Up in the Cape it's more complicated with land clearing laws, but there is ample land on the Tablelands.

"We have people trialling it on farms right now.

"There are also some people trying to get into it for the legal medicinal purposes.

"But it is highly regulated."

Mr Moro said growing trials had been highly successful for decades.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he ran hemp trials about 25 years ago when he operated Hurricane Station at Mount Carbine.

It went like the clappers but a few acres was nowhere near enough to become profitable.

"You're going to struggle to clear any new ground under the current state government," he said.

"So it needs to happen on cane land in order to get the volume to create the industry.

"The concept is fine but you've got to balance the return for that kind of agriculture against that of avocadoes, bananas and sugar.

"The technology is there, the value of the product is a reality, it's just whether you've got enough suitable land to do it, and enough people wanting to make the transition."

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