Local farmers to cease growing hemp following a spate of thefts

Up In Smoke: Fleurieu Peninsula farmers Robert and Dianne Mignanelli will not grow hemp again at their Hindmarsh Tiers farm, following a continued stream of thieves.

Up In Smoke: Fleurieu Peninsula farmers Robert and Dianne Mignanelli will not grow hemp again at their Hindmarsh Tiers farm, following a continued stream of thieves.

WHILE initial results of the state's first industrial hemp harvest have been positive, the growing season has not been all smooth sailing, with reports of theft and recent untimely weather.

Fleurieu Peninsula farmers Robert and Dianne Mignanelli have struggled with thieves and trespassers during their growing season and said they will not grow the irrigated crop again at their Hindmarsh Tiers farm.

Mr Mignanelli said despite spending more than $20,000 on security measures to protect his 40ha crop, thieves were still trespassing at all hours of the day and night.

"We expected some interference from the public, but not to this degree - it is relentless, 24 hours a day," he said.

"We're losing hundreds of plants and thousands of dollars from theft.

"Under our licensing agreement, we must notify Biosecurity SA and the police if the crop is tampered with, which we do, but police patrols have been minimal.

"We need more support against this harassment, but we are made to feel like we are the nuisance, not the trespassers."

Mr Mignanelli believes the state government also needs to help growers more, possibly through further education in the mainstream media or farmer subsidies.

"If they want the industrial hemp industry to take off in this state, then they need to help," he said.

Industrial hemp has less than one per cent tetrahydrocannabinol content, which means a "high" can not be achieved from smoking or ingesting the plant.

But this information has not stopped the thieves.

"We have multiple signs outlining this, along with electric fencing, barbed wire, locked gates, security cameras, we patrol the area and our neighbours do too, and people are still trespassing," Mr Mignanelli said.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said it was not the government's role to protect crops, but mainstream advertising was worth considering.

"Growers have to understand it is a misunderstood crop so discreet locations may need to be considered to reduce the instances of theft," he said.

Mr Mignanelli said if they wanted to continue in the industry, they would have to consider moving, after farming in the Hindmarsh Tiers region since 1976.

"Otherwise we would have to spend another $20,000 on security, if we wanted to go again," he said.

"We would also need more local police patrols to deter potential trespassers, or at the very least, act on any reports received from the growers or public."

SAPOL said police patrols were "paying attention" to the rural properties involved and asked locals to report any suspicious activity.

Mr Whetstone said the industry was still a "work in progress" with government trials continuing to look into varieties, different environmental situations and future fibre production.

He said industrial hemp licences were available from PIRSA.