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Tasmanian poppy farmers hope for sunlight

Tasmania’s poppy growers are hoping for some long, warm and sunny days in the weeks ahead as they prepare for the upcoming harvest.

Unseasonal snow falls in August along with heavy rain in September and October damaged some of the crop but growers are expecting a good, average harvest.

Poppies are grown on about 12,000 hectares in Tasmania by about 350 growers and a handful more on the mainland.

But as the industry says, these are not the average poppy. These are grown behind fences with warning signs and cameras and surveillance. Tasmania’s poppies are grown for the world’s medicinal markets, for use in cough medicines and analgesic opiates such as morphine and codeine.

Australia’s poppy producers supply about half of the world’s demand.

Tiago Tomaz from Sun Pharma, one of the poppy-producing companies, says the effect of La Nina has made this year a challenging one for the poppy growers.

“We had quite a wet start to the season,” Dr Tomaz says.

The crop is due to be harvested in late January and February.

Poppy Growers Tasmania chief executive Keith Rice says the crops are coming into flower now and growers are hoping for some long, warm and sunlit days in the lead-up to harvest time.

Mr Rice says about 10 per cent of the crop was damaged due to unseasonal snow in August and then heavy rains in September and October.

He says it is expected to be a “good average season” but not a bumper crop.

Australia’s biggest markets are the US and western Europe. Very little is sold to China, meaning that poppy farmers have escaped the same damaging effects that other Australian agricultural producers have faced as a result of Australia and China’s relationship hitting rock bottom.

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