This article segues nicely with the previous article by long time Poutama client, Garry Sommerville…and it is a long time…Garry has been a Poutama client for close on 30 years.  We well remember when he first took his hot sauce, Kaitaia Fire, to the USA and won a hot sauce competition there.

His article shows how times have changed and how far we’ve come when it comes to talking about marijuana, weed, herb, ganja and now just plain old hemp.  Garry writes of a humorous time during his US road trip much of it in a haze of marijuana smoke.  Fast forward from the mid-1990s to 2018 and the times are a changing!!

MIHI is made up of around 20 businesses both Māori and non-Māori.  The group got together mid 2018 to discuss forming a collaborative hemp and medicinal cannabis business.

Whangape landowner sifts through bag of hemp seed

The name MIHI (Movers In Hemp Innovation) came up during a road trip between Hastings and Wellington taken not under a haze of marijuana smoke but under a haze of excitement at the possibilities before us.  At that time in July we were off to New Zealand’s first ever Hemp Summit.

Since then MIHI has moved to consolidate its efforts in readiness for producing hemp food and fibre products.  This readiness has included engaging with a number of research organisations one of which is really interested in helping MIHI develop bio-plastics from hemp cellulose.  Imagine hemp food products packaged in bio-degradable and compostable hemp containers!!

Land at Tamaki nui a Rua being ploughed up in readiness for hemp seed to be planted

MIHI has also engaged with the First Nations of Canada including the Mohawk, Cree, Anishinabek, and Okanagan nations concerning inter-indigenous trade in hemp and tapping into their experience in building medicinal cannabis businesses.  There is the possibility that MIHI and the First Nations could supply hemp to each other when it is out of season in their respective countries.  The First Nations could open trade channels into the lucrative North American market for hemp and cannabis products.

For the immediate term MIHI will look to focus on developing food & fibre products from hemp.  Over time it may then move towards developing medicinal cannabis products.  One of the key areas of focus for MIHI is given that New Zealand is way behind in the production of hemp and medicinal cannabis products when compared to the likes of North America.  What then will be our point of difference, why would people in offshore markets want to buy off us?

Hemp seed planted at Mohaka early December now starting to spring up

While we haven’t landed on this yet, there is of course the opportunity to be first to market here in New Zealand followed by Australia.  MIHI could then head eastward to high value markets in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.  These markets have a history of using food for health and traditional medicines.  Perhaps the timing is right for hemp?

In the meantime MIHI is gearing itself to bring hemp products to market mid-2019.  As you read through this, hemp-growing trials are now happening at Whangape, Mohaka and Tāmaki-nui-a-Rua.  A MIHI member is working through proof of concept into a food product and has recently installed hemp de-hulling equipment, another member has hemp food processing capabilities…watch this space.