A Manawatu hemp farm is set to boost production as new rules around hemp seeds come into force.
From Tuesday hemp seeds are allowed to be sold as food - a move which is expected to generate $10-20 million in export revenue over the next three to five years.
- Government declares hemp seed 'safe to eat'
- Medicinal cannabis cultivation licence issued to East Coast business for first time
The industry will be monitored by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which will ensure the THC levels in hemp food products are safe.
Feilding farmers Jenni and John Ridd already have 35 hectares of hemp, with 15 more planned once they receive approval from MPI.
They are into their second season, and Jenni Ridd told RadioLIVE's Rural Exchange it is an exciting time.
"As well as our own farm, we will be planting elsewhere around the Manawatu in partnership with The Hemp Farm," she said.
While things are going well, harvesting is causing some challenges.
"Because it is such a strong crop and very fibrous, it can be difficult to harvest and sometimes cause damage to equipment," said Mrs Ridd.
While hemp looks nearly identical to its intoxicating cannabis cousin, she said the crop is far from the illegal drug with its naturally low THC levels.
Hemp seeds are known for their nutritional properties and mild nutty flavour, with the crop often cold-pressed to produce a nourishing oil for health or cosmetic purposes.
The plant can also be harvested for dual purposes, with certain varieties bred for both seed production and fibre. Hemp is already legal to produce for hempseed oil.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the new rules are great news for the hemp industry.
"Hulled, non-viable seeds and their products will be now be viewed as just another edible seed," says Mr O'Connor. "We will continue to ease pathways for our farmers and growers to produce the finest food and fibre for the world's most discerning customers."
Watch the full interview with Jenni Ridd above.