Nuts over small acre farming

Nuts over flood plain acreage


Horticulture
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Macadamia conference to highlight expansion.

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Liz and Bruce Green, Palmers Channel on the lower Clarence, where 20ha of flood plain cane country are in the process of a transition to macadamias. Patience is required at first but returns are rewarding.

Liz and Bruce Green, Palmers Channel on the lower Clarence, where 20ha of flood plain cane country are in the process of a transition to macadamias. Patience is required at first but returns are rewarding.

THIS year’s Macadamia Industry Conference runs next week at Caloundra, Queensland, where the sun shines as bright as producers’ optimism.

Macadamias are in a good place right now and Australian marketers have the tiger buy the tail.

Actually almonds are the ‘tiger’ of the tree nut world but Macadamia Society CEO Jolyon Burnett likens the effort applied by Australian macadamia sellers to their native nut as being somewhat similar to that of the Californian Almond Board to which the rest of the almond world looks for guidance.

Mr Burnett, who has seen export prices double and demand increase out of all expectation in the eight years he has held the position, says bouyant opportunity driven by Australians is also kept in check by a ‘disciplined approach.’ and ‘really well-planned marketing’.

Meanwhile Australian producers, offering the cleanest greenest product available, have upped production from an average of 2.4t/ha to 3t/ha in the last three years alone.

New markets like Korea have increased their take of the nut by 400 per cent while China now takes one third of the world crop. Four years ago they took nothing.

This bright outlook has convinced large and small investors alike that macadamia production is good for business.

On the Northern Rivers country under nuts has spread to the lower Clarence, where former dairy and cane land is now producing high quality kernel.

In fact Palmers Channel producers Bruce and Liz Green grow macadamias that contain 44 per cent kernel, or 11 per cent greater than average and therefore have realised returns of $7.56/kg; well up on the $5.20 average price.

The 20ha of land now growing macadamia trees – the oldest are eight years old and the youngest just planted – used to be farmed by Mr Green’s grandparents and uncle who milked dairy cows.

Before trees the Greens grew sugar cane for the Harwood mill but with such small acreage they required outside income. For both it was inside a tractor – Liz contract spraying for the council and Bruce doing contract slashing.

For the last decade, however, the couple worked extra hours to establish their orchard. This year for the first time it will turn a profit with 30t of nut in shell going to Dunoon for processing through Macadamias Direct.

The wait for nut, and financial turn-around is one that requires patience and investors need a deep pocket along with outside income.

“We put $400,000 into this project and we did all our own contract work,” says Mr Green. However the returns are expected to come thick and feast in the first years of nut production. 

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