District on path as ‘hempquarters’ of New Zealand

YUM: Rangitata MP James Meager and Hemp New Zealand business development manager Nigel Hosking try out a hemp chicken sandwich.
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Hemp chicken tastes like chicken, Rangitata MP James Meager says.

Meager was enthusiastic about Mid Canterbury becoming the nation’s ‘‘hempquarters’’ as he visited a manufacturing plant new to Ashburton.

Hemp New Zealand relocated its Tauranga-based operation recently as it moves closer to processing infrastructure and growers, all of whom are from Canterbury.

The move followed Sustainable Foods hemp food manufacturer relocating to Ashburton from Wellington earlier in the year.

Hemp New Zealand business development manager Nigel Hosking showed Meager around the company’s base in the Ashburton Business Estate last week.

Hemp chicken and salad sandwiches were on offer for the tour.

Meager discovered he liked the hemp chicken almost as much as real chicken.

‘‘If you had put it on a plate in front of me and I didn’t know any better, I would have thought it was chicken that needed a bit of seasoning,’’ Meager said.

Hosking said Mid Canterbury was ‘‘the home of hemp’’, while Meager said the district could most certainly become ‘‘the hempquarters of New Zealand’’as industry growth continued. Hosking said Mid Canterbury was ideal for hemp growing, with flat land, proximity to infrastructure such as seed facilities, and deep water bores.

Altogether about 20 different farmers in the district in recent years had experience growing hemp.

‘‘That could certainly expand, we have large arable farms around here,’’ Hosking said.

‘‘It’s a good cropping option, it has about a 90- to 120-day window from planting of seed to harvest, it leaves a good clean seed bed.’’

Meager was keen to help at a government level as the industry lobbies for a law change enabling hemp byproducts to be used for feeding pets and livestock.

‘‘My role is what can I do in my job to advocate for the policy settings that mean these guys can compete and produce on the same playing field as everybody else,’’ Meager said.