The NZ Hemp Economy: Dollars & Sense

Implications of a New Zealand hemp industry

  • Increased revenue streams for the Kiwi farmer. Hemp can provide 3 times the current rate of return of other traditional land uses with a forecast gross margin of between $1,000 and $10,000 per hectare ($400 to $4,000 per acre).
  • Hemp cleans and reconditions the soil, requiring less pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, leading to environmentally sustainable use of available farm land.
  • Reduction in the number of people relying on the welfare system. There are huge employment opportunities created throughout industry as all aspects of the production cycle gear up to use seed and natural fibre raw materials.
  • Revitalised rural economies, not just their environments (i.e. reduction of industrial chemicals required) but the community spirit as they develop locally and sell their primary produce.
  • A reduction in the pollution and environmental impact on our waterways created by the switch from other land uses, especially when used in crop rotation.
  • Increased awareness by the general public, of alternative, environmentally friendly products. Leading to support from consumers, as they use their green dollars to buy goods produced from sustainable sources.
  • An expanding choice of diversified investment opportunities both locally and nationally.
  • Realised export potential for goods and services, which meet and exceed the standards demanded by countries that lack New Zealand’s resources.
  • Expanding total dollar tax take for the government coffers.
  • A decline in the breakdown and break up of our rural economies and families. Utilisation of available and developing technology toward a safer and cleaner New Zealand.

Market opportunities

FIBRE – suitable as a fibreglass substitute, for geotextile & bio composite applications, to manufacture high quality paper and textile products. The long fibres can also be used in the pultrusion of reinforcing beams which are as strong as steel for the construction industry.

THE HURD – 32-38% of the hurd is cellulose, the building block of plastics. Therefore biodegradable plastics can and are at this time being produced in Germany. Patents have also been filed by US Companies. It is also naturally extremely absorbent and is thus prized as animal bedding and for use in industrial clean up situations. The hurd and the fibre are also used to produce concrete substitutes and fibreboards.

THE SEED – can be marketed directly as a nutritional feed stock suitable for both human and animal consumption. The oil pressed from the seed has applications in the health and nutritional industry, and as an industrial oil or lubricant and fuel source.

To produce energy, the biomass from the entire plant is combusted or prolytically converted to produce Methanol. With a 94% fuel to feed efficiency ratio it is extremely effective, and does not produce any sulphur emissions.

The above list is by no means all inclusive and new applications are being developed daily. There are numerous constructive commercial uses for Industrial Hemp, many of which have a great export potential as major overseas markets reflect the growing demand for green products.

Opportunities also exist for exporting the expertise and technology associated with setting up a local hemp industry and the required infrastructure.

As can be seen, there are numerous potential markets requiring various degrees of further processing and associated investment in capital. It is this diversity which is the key benefit of a local hemp industry as it provides ongoing opportunities for development, profitable investment and employment in New Zealand.

Market competitors

The bulk of China’s production is utilised in their Textile industry, while Eastern European production goes into both their textiles and the twine and cordage industries.

These markets are well established and have the required extensive infrastructure and resources already set up. In New Zealand we are under-capitalised to compete with some of these applications and end uses.

France produces construction and paper products, the pulp for which is provided by pulping plants in Spain. Isochanvre, by Chénevotte Habitat is a construction material used to build subdivisions in France. It uses a registered process to mix the hemp hurd with a lime solution which petrifies the vegetable matter in to a mineral form, producing a composite 1/6 of the weight of concrete but which requires no reinforcing. The finished product has excellent thermal properties, is non-flammable and like many hemp products is fungicidal and anti-bacterial.


What we need to do

  • We must develop suitable seeds for our diurnal temperature fluctuations and environment.
  • We must produce these seeds in sufficient quantities to be able to meet the demand of the farmers and consumers.
  • While we are developing the required seed suitable for different locations and soil types, we must have access to the raw materials which are being produced.
  • The technology and machinery must be developed and implemented to allow for economic harvesting and processing of the raw materials locally.
  • These raw materials can be applied into existing and developing manufacturing technologies; to improve and produce the desired quality finished products for the consumer both locally and internationally.
  • The products and technology must be adequately distributed and marketed to the local and international consumers.
  • Consumers must buy them and support the local industry.

Summarising the bottom line for the nation

Bio-regional development will provide many employment opportunities at a local level, the flow on effect would utilise the established services and available labour, and would require investment in plant and machinery. The Government would also directly derive benefits from decreased unemployment payments, and from the tax revenue generated from a compatible multi-billion dollar a year industry.

As seed and natural fibres become integrated into our economy, our primary producers would benefit. This would lead to benefits for our economy overall due to the enhanced image of our products and services, and the minimal associated environmental impacts of their production.

New Zealanders have traditionally led the world, whether it be in sporting endeavours, social issues or in making others aware of workable alternatives. We now have another opportunity to lead the world, with our inherent ability to get things done and to overcome perceived and actual problems. We want to show the world how a sustainable approach can fit into the market place, how being environmentally aware can work for business bottom line, and how this honest, hard work benefits the economy and our culture.

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