On our trip last week to Tasmania’s north west coast, we noticed the following signs on some fields.

Poppy 1

We have now learned that Tasmania is the largest legal producer of opium poppies in the world.

poppy 2Poppy 3

Poppy straw contains opiates, natural products used in medicine to make painkillers (morphine and codeine) and cough medicines.

Poppy seeds are used in foods such as baked goods and poppy seed oils. The seeds do not contain opiates.

~ Tasmania supplies half the world’s medicinal opiates.

~ Poppies are grown in a 3 year cycle with other crops.

~ 1,000 farmers are contracted to grow poppies in Tasmania. More than 13,000 hectares of poppies are grown each year.

~ Farmers must be licensed with the Tasmanian Government and registered with a company to grow poppies.

~ Opium poppy trials began in 1964.

~ Commercial production on began in 1970.

~ All poppy farmers need a licence to grow poppies in Tasmania. Anyone entering a poppy field must have a licence and permission, including the harvesters.

~ Any stubble left behind after harvesting a poppy crop is destroyed.

~ Warning signs must be shown on fences around poppy crops. Fences must have barbed wire or an electric top wire.

~ Farmers must be careful their racing horses do not eat poppy straw. Horses turn the opiates into morphine in their stomachs. Morphine is banned in horse racing.

~ Livestock (sheep and cows) that eat poppy re-growth can’t be sold for meat for three weeks.

~ Poppy material is highly toxic, and people who ingest it can become ill or die. Last year a Danish tourist died after stealing some poppy heads and brewing them into a tea.