New Zealand’s Hemp Business Opportunity

by Robbie Dellow
NZ money featured with hemp highlighting New Zealand's hemp financial opportunity

New Zealand has a rich history of creating new lucrative markets with which to diversify our economy. The NZ$3 billion kiwifruit industry and the NZ$1.5 billion wine industry are but two great examples of how global exporting success can be achieved in a relatively short period of time.

Currently there are several new industry sectors that are also hoping to emulate this success, and hemp is one showing enormous potential.

The worldwide hemp business opportunity was US$4.6 billion in 2019 and the trajectory suggests it will reach US$65 billion by 2030. For New Zealand it is projected that by 2030 the local hemp industry could be contributing NZ$2 billion to our local economy and provide for 20,000 new employment opportunities.

This incredibly versatile plant has a huge diversified range of over 10,000 uses, including in the food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, medicine, fuels, textile and industrial material sectors and NZ is ideally positioned to take advantage of this opportunity because of our :

  • Proven agricultural expertise and expertise in plant genetics
  • Rich history of research, cultivation and plant breeding
  • Globally respected and trusted ‘clean green’ image
  • Deep experience and understanding in how to develop and market successful high-quality/high-value niche products (wine, kiwifruit, manuka honey, A2-milk, etc)
  • Wide support network, at government and private sector levels, for start-up and existing businesses

Whilst the dominant market players are China, USA and Canada, we are already seeing smaller players concentrating on niche areas. Such examples are Australia and Israel focussing on pharmaceuticals, Canada on textiles and construction products, and California on consumer CBD products.

New Zealand has this same ability and we can play to our strengths and specialise in key segments specific to our export markets.

Our country is ideally placed to produce high-value branded products for global markets, such as we already do in the wine industry, with Australia generally producing high volume, whereas NZ has chosen a limited volume high-quality/high-value approach to target the more discerning customer.

The same approach is with kiwifruit, where Zespri and others have poured many dollars into Research and Development (R&D) to produce specialist varieties suited to the tastes for particular market’s consumers who are prepared to pay a premium price.

There are already many rapidly evolving established hemp companies in New Zealand :

Hemp Health, The Brothers Green, NZ Hempress, Hempseed Holdings, NZ Natural Fibres, are just some of the local companies developing IP, brands, and building market share.

These New Zealand companies have already built up a network of 100’s of growers, spanning many regions, and are only improving processes and resultant products through diligent and expansive R&D efforts.

Additionally, Iwi are now major investors and participants in this industry and this aligns with their ‘Kaitiakitanga’ guardianship beliefs. The Maori bring with them a deep understanding and appreciation of the natural health giving benefits of plant ingredients.

To realise the potential, in New Zealand, that this incredible plant has the potential for will require further legislative and regulatory procedures established to encourage investment, more R&D and expansion of the industry. This will subsequently enable New Zealand to realise the substantial export opportunities available.

Until such time, our competitors (Canada, Australia, USA, etc) for such markets are growing exponentially and taking advantage of their first mover advantage.

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