Theft only one of the risks with poppies

Caution: Tasmanian opium grower Andrew Colvin urged local farmers thinking of entering the industry to start small because of the risks involved.
Nanjing Night Net

TASMANIAN opium poppy grower AndrewColvin hasplenty of words of warning for Victorian farmers thinking of entering the industry.

Mr Colvin told this month’sSouth West Soils Conference in Colac that“growing poppies is a bit like gambling.”

Mr Colvin’s wins so farin growingthe narcotic ingredient have been well ahead of his losses but he said it was getting harder to grow a successful crop.

Mr Colvin, who has been growing opium poppies for 17 years at Cressy in northern Tasmania, suffered his first crop failure last year because of an outbreak of systemic mildew.

Two other crops during the past 17 years have just broken even.

Mr Colvin said no chemical control had yet been found to tackle the outbreak of the new mildew and he was not growing poppies this year for the first time in 18 years.

His words of experience come as interest in producing opium poppies in Victoria grows followingthe state government’s movelast year to legalisetheir cultivation for use as painkillers.

Poppy processor TPI Enterprises has moved to diversify its poppy supply beyond Tasmania andcontracted farmers to grow poppies at several small sites across Victoria including at Ballarat.A company spokesman said it was seeking more farmers to grow the crop.

Mr Colvin said poppies had a long rotation period with a pasture phase in the middle.He had two paddocks infested with systemic mildew last year and would probably not grow opium poppies in those paddocks for another 8-10 years, he said.

Mr Colvin warned that growing opium poppieswas expensive, costing about $2000 a hectare.

While some growers were able to make $8000-$10,000 a hectare, the average gross margins were $3700 a hectare, Mr Colvin said.

He urged farmers considering poppy production to start small because of the risks involved.

Andrew ColvinThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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