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TAS Country : February 2nd 2012
12 Friday, Febru Farm Feature Pyrethrum industry BLOOMING: Tim Groom inspects a pyrethrum crop at Penguin. He has witnessed significant changes in the industry Drive across Tasmania and you cannot miss the fields of white daisies -- nature's insecticide. Today, pyrethrum provides one of the state's main cash crops, writes, KAROLIN MacGREGOR WHAT started as a few trials looking for new crops more than 30 years ago has grown into Tasmania's multi-million dollar pyrethrum industry. Paddocks of bright white pyrethrum daisies were scattered across a large part of the state this spring making the industry's expansion hard to miss. In recent years changes to global supply of pyrethrum products has seen Tasmania become the world's largest producer supplying between 60-70 per cent of the global market. This success story is the result of years of persistence and hard work by plant breeders, researchers, growers and the companies involved. Botanical Resources Australia manager of agricultural businesses Tim Groom has been involved with the pyrethrum industry for more than 30 years and has seen some significant changes over that time. He said the early university and State Government-run trials showed the potential for a pyrethrum industry in the state due to Tasmania's climate and soils. In the mid 1980s the industry received a major boost with the involvement of CIG Pyrethrum, which saw the crop move from trials to a more commercial level. Mr Groom said in those early days planting and harvesting the crop was highly labour intensive. Individual plants were separated by hand ready for planting. The flowers were harvested while still green and then dried using hop kilns. As the acreage increased and more research was done, however, the industry was able to move into growing the crop from seed. The harvesting techniques also changed to cutting and windrowing the crop, which dries the flowers prior to harvesting. Crop area gradually expanded and in 1996 about 750ha was grown across the North West. As the industry began to grow, the need for a Tasmanian processing site became evident and in 1996 BRA established a processing facility at Ulverstone. The plant was set up for first stage extraction and refinement process of the pyrethrids found in the daisies. Mr Groom said even though the crop was relatively new, there were always farmers willing to give it a try. ''With all growers you get the ones that are prepared to step up and have a go and then there are the others who prefer to sit back and wait and see what happens,'' he said. The Tasmanian industry continued to grow steadily, but in 2003 a major opportunity to expand became apparent. Mr Groom said up until 2003, Kenya was the world's biggest supplier of pyrethrum. He said a world oversupply and the non payment of growers in that country saw production decline dramatically. This, com- bined with civil and political unrest, saw a large supply deficit. ''At that stage we really had to make a decision about where we wanted to go and that was either expand production in a big way, or just keep going as we were,'' he said. Since 2005, production of pyrethrum has tripled and plans to keep expanding are in the pipeline, Mr Groom said. To cater for the increase in production, a major expansion at the BRA factory at Ulverstone has also been under way. Millions of dollars have been invested in new storage facilities including an automated conveyor
January 26th 2012
February 9th 2012