Hemp trade hit by heavy-handed rules
Industrial hemp growers in East Anglia have criticised Home Office rules to license crops as 'heavy-handed' and adding costs to an emerging green sector.
And farmers have criticised the need for intensive criminal record bureau checks to plant several thousand acres of a crop grown for processing into insulation or light-weight car panels.
Breckland farmer Philip Lee, who has grown about 50 acres of industrial hemp for the past nine years, has asked South-west Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss to intervene.
The Home Office has introduced licensing fees from November 15, which will cost �1,371 for an annual inspection of cannabis sativa crops under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1971.
And a basic fee of �580 for first-time growers or �326 for renewal was set without consulting the industry or Defra, said the National Farmers' Union yesterday.
You may also want to watch:
Mr Lee, of Home Farm, Quidenham, near Attleborough, supplies Europe's largest hemp processor at Halesworth. He grows the crop because it is environmentally-friendly and needs no pesticides. 'It doesn't make a fortune but we're supplying a growing industry.'
'The Home Office has seen the cannabis or 'C' word and got their knickers in a twist because they can't understand the difference between cannabis and hemp.'
- 1 Roads flooded on east coast after heavy rain
- 2 Two Norfolk villages named among most beautiful to visit in England
- 3 Man put hidden camera in bedroom to spy on wife
- 4 Driver taken to hospital after four-car crash on key road into Norwich
- 5 Man in critical condition after being stabbed in Thetford
- 6 Machinery sale marks end of family's 100-year farming history
- 7 Robbers knock out boy, 14, and steal trainers from his feet
- 8 Unlikely new use for city's Samson and Hercules building
- 9 'Pray for Paul today' - wife's plea as gallbladder op victim faces surgery
- 10 Woman taken to hospital following crash on A146
'There was a bit of a giggle locally for the first year but everybody knows what it is. And who in their right mind would grow 50-odd acres out in the open if it was the cannabis drug,' said Mr Lee, aged 52, who grows carrots, parsnips, potatoes and cereal crops on the family farm.
The �3.6m factory, opened in July 2008 by Hemp Technology, can process about 50,000 tonnes of hemp straw from about 7,000 acres on farms across East Anglia.
The crop has a tiny drug content of less than 0.2pc.
Mr Lee, said: 'We used to be covered by an umbrella licence held by the processor. Now we have to have an individual licence from the Home Office. We have to have a CRB check, which costs about �80.
'Then when we've planted the crop, every seed bag label has to be sent to the Rural Payments Agency, so they can verify we've grown a permitted variety. We're not allowed to harvest until we get the all-clear from Defra.'
Engineer Stephen Eyles, of Northwold, who has designed a specialist hemp harvester, said his brother, Roger, who also grew the crop had to apply for a CRB check. 'It really doesn't make any sense,' he added.
The NFU said that the Home Office licensing system to control harmful narcotic drugs was not appropriate for field-grown hemp crops.
NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones, said: 'These licence fees are now potentially the bale of straw that will break the industry's back.'
Hemp, which is susceptible to frost and is planted from mid-April, has been grown in England since 1992, when individual inspection was required. This was criticised as costly and unnecessary and replaced for more than a decade by a light-touch regulatory regime until the Home Office's change of rules.