poppy industry

The Poppy or opiate alkaloid industry is based on a dry poppy plant process invented by Hungarian chemist, Janos Kabay, in 1931. Following CSIRO development work, pilot production began on the north-west coast in 1964. The first commercial season began in 1970, involving 560 hectares under cultivation to the UK Glaxo Group, who established a poppy-processing facility at Latrobe. In 1972, a government decision restricted the growing of Papaver somniferum to Tasmania.

The Poppy Advisory & Control Board was established to license and control growing and production in accordance with United Nations conventions. This vertically integrated industry, in the 2002­03 season, involved the companies of GlaxoSmithKline and Tasmanian Alkaloids Pty Ltd and 1150 farmers growing 17,500 hectares of poppies, from which 31,000 tonnes of poppy material were produced.

Further reading: Tasmanian Poppy Advisory and Control Board report, Edition 3, Department of Justice and Industrial Relations, 2002; Poppy Growers Bulletin, 1975; www.gskpoppy.com; www.tasalk.com.au.

Colleen Dibley