Tasmania set to lose poppy monopoly
Tasmania is set to lose its lucrative poppy monopoly with local growers vowing to fight moves by Tasmanian Alkaloids to set up commercial poppy crops in New Zealand.
The poppy processor has won approval from the New Zealand government to sow three small test crops.
Tasmania's had a monopoly on growing poppies in the southern hemisphere for close to half a century, and supplies half of the world's medicinal opiate needs.
But now Tasmanian Alkaloids wants to expand, and says the drought and recent heavy rains has prompted it to look for alternative growing regions.
Rick Rockliff from Tasmanian Alkaloids says any poppies grown in New Zealand would still be processed at its factory at Westbury in the state's north
He's acknowledged the move could worry local growers but he says it's important for the company to spread its risk.
"We've had trouble sourcing all the material we've wanted in Tasmania for quite a number of years now," he said.
"We've had drought, and this year, too much rain, so it only makes good business sense to look at alternatatives of supply, but i'd have to stress that this is a long way down the track."
But Tasmanian Poppy Growers Association President Glynn Williams believes other factors are at play.
"We're very sceptical about the reason for it. As all Tasmanian farmers are well aware, the New Zealand currency operates at a 20 per cent discount to the Australian dollar, and that's been happening basically since the 1980s," he said.
"We've got a real concern that it may be dollar related."
Mr Williams plans to lobby the International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna which licenses the crops.