Where is “Australian Certified Organic” hemp grown?

Food products which are stamped “Australian Certified Organic” are not necessarily grown in Australia. One may be misled by the ACO stamp and think that one is buying an Australian grown product. This is simply not the case. A majority of ACO stamped hemp food products sold in Australia are processed from hemp seed grown in China, and other countries with dubious food safety credentials.

Imported Hemp Seed from China.

China is the largest hemp producer in the world. However, due to lax labor laws and environmental regulations, it’s unclear whether hemp grown in China is sustainably grown and non-toxic. Chinese hemp seed is cheap. Pre-Covid, imported Chinese hemp seed delivered to an Australian port was almost half the cost of Australian grown seed. Even with increased sea freight costs post-Covid, the price disparity is significant, putting Australian hemp farmers and processors at a huge disadvantage. Australia has a free trade agreement with China so import tariffs and trade barriers don’t apply to safeguard Australian businesses.

Buyer Beware

There is no doubt that food products stamped with an organic certification attract premium buyer recognition and a premium price. “Certified Organic” comes with a strong perception of healthy food being grown on chemical free, clean pristine Australian farms dripping with sustainability. This illusion falls under a dark shadow when one thinks of China, one of the most polluted countries on earth. Perhaps some corners of China are pristine, and hemp may be grown there – one must not assume. But who is to find out? One must also not assume that large corporations with driven by shareholder returns genuinely care about consumer well-being and sustainability. It comes down to the simple adage: “know where your food comes from”.

Growing Hemp Organically.

Closer to home, Good Country Hemp have tried to find farmers who tick boxes to grow hemp organically. So far we haven’t found any in South Australia, but we’ll keep looking. The most important thing for us is to grow hemp seed locally to keep our food miles low and not take irrigation water from any river systems. But it’s also about working closely with farmers to achieve healthy hemp foods and to improve farm productivity by introducing hemp to the mix. More on that in another blog.

Good Country Hemp’s goal is to grow all our hemp seed without chemical inputs. We’re almost there. So far we’ve managed – with the help of our growers – to end pesticide use and use a harmless natural alternative to control pests. Now we’re focused on herbicides. With good farm management and careful crop planning we know we can do it. Hemp is a tough plant with unique traits, so in comparison to other mainstream crops it can almost combat weeds by itself.

So, now we’ve hung out out dirty laundry for everyone to see. Yes, we do use ag chemicals on our hemp crops, but extremely sparingly, and soon, hopefully none. We don’t aim to be “certified organic”, but we’re honest about our story. We hope that consumers will see past the deceptive marketing of doubtful “Australian Certified Organic” hemp foods and choose a locally grown product which may cost a few cents more.