Ruatorea locals harvest secret hemp crop

By Carmen Parahi

A Government approved hemp trial has been successfully harvested today by Ruatorea locals.

The 5000 plants were held in a secluded valley, 45 minutes drive from Ruatorea (on the East Coast). About 30 locals travelled to the secret location this morning. The volunteers ranged from children to elders and EIT horticultural students. They spent an hour harvesting the crop by hand before loading it up on a utility truck.

Hikurangi Enterprises based in Ruatorea has been working to stimulate the local economy using primary production and innovation.

Managing Director Panapa Ehau says, "We're looking at ways for whānau to generate income from their own whenua in a way that supports the health of the whenua. It doesn't require fungicides or pesticides."

The company secured a license from the Ministry of Health last year and planted the hemp in mid-December. The level of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, has to be kept below 0.35% in hemp or it will be destroyed.

"There's a huge range of products that hemp can be used for. Hemp seeds can be cold pressed for oil, you have fibre that can be used for building or construction composites. The flowers and leaves can be used medicinally,” says Panapa.

The hemp will be dried but Hikurangi Enterprises is yet to decide how it will be used. 

Business Development Manager, Manu Caddie says, "If we turn it in to licensed products of 3 gram doses with 150 milligrams of CBD oil, it would have a retail value of $5mil based on 5000 plants producing 5 oz each. It has a wholesale price of $3000 per pound of bud."

"There's literally thousands of avenues where you can use hemp. We've also been contacted by a local brewery to make beer out of hemp."

Panapa says if the community buys into the hemp trial, they will replant a larger crop later this year.

"October, depending on what the moon will be doing at that time, is when the next crop will be planted."

The hemp trial is a number of schemes being planned including a $400,000 kānuka oil project.