New Hemp Processing Plant to Cut Costs for NZ Producers

First published on RNZ and republished with permission.

New Zealand grown hemp products will soon be able to compete with cheaper imported ones, thanks to a new processing plant being built in Levin.

Established five years ago Hemp Connect - sells products like hemp oil, protein powders and other health supplements.

It contracts farmers across the lower North Island to grow hemp - and last season harvested 150 tonnes of hemp seed.

But the problem is that it is currently cheaper to import hemp than it is to grow and process it here, the price can vary by up to $10 a kilogram.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is contributing more than $245,000 to help the company develop a hemp seed processing plant that will enable it to process more parts of the seed.

Hemp Connect managing director Mathew Johnson said one of the keys to reducing costs has been researching how to use the entire seed, as well as the associated waste stream.

"Our goal with this project is to make hemp food production in New Zealand a viable and internationally competitive option."

By increasing the scale of production new product developments such as husk bi-products, hemp sprouts and animal feed will become more economically viable, he said.

Parts for the new processing plant have been caught up in COVID-19 related shipping delays but the company hopes to have it up and running by next year.