The Northern Territory’s first commercial crop of opium poppies is ready for harvest on Tipperary Station.
The company, TPI Enterprises, will be harvesting 100 hectares of poppies, which were planted on the cattle station back in June, under two centre pivots.
Standing next to the crop with ABC Rural, TPI’s director of agriculture Dr Andrew Tomkins, said the commercial trial, 200 kilometres south of Darwin, had been a success.
“For the first year of growing on this scale in the Northern Territory it’s gone really well,” he said. “We’ve learnt a lot of things; it is quite different up here in a number of cases compared to growing poppies down south.
“But harvesters should be in shortly within the next two or three weeks, and it’s looking good.” Once harvested, the poppies will be transported down to TPI’s processing factory in Melbourne.
The crop on Tipperary Station has more security measures than any other poppy crop in Australia. It is surrounded by a two-metre high electrified fence, security cameras and in the final stages of production has been monitored by two full-time security guards.
“It’s a new crop here and we’re learning and finding out just how secure it needs to be, but there’s been no breaches in the crop, no issues, and it’s gone really well.”
The NT’s Minister for Primary Industry, Willem Westra van Holthe, said the option to grow poppies commercially in the Northern Territory had been made possible thanks to changes to the Pastoral Land Act and the introduction of the Poppy Regulation Act 2014.
“The Northern Territory Government is committed to creating economic and employment opportunities; that’s why we put in place the Poppy Regulation Act to get this new industry off the ground,” he said.
“We welcome this type of development up here and I’d love to see the Northern Territory become the poppy capital of Australia.”
TPI’s managing director, Jarrod Ritchie, said the worldwide demand for pharmaceutical opiates is increasing.
“The expansion of growing to the Northern Territory is an important part of TPI’s strategy to diversify its sources of supply of poppy straw to help the company meet the growing international demand for narcotic raw material product,” he said.
“The introduction of poppy crops to the NT offers new opportunities for Territory farmers, as well as strengthens Australia’s position as a reliable supplier of high quality raw materials for the global pharmaceutical industry.”