Macadamia processor?s collapse adds to woes
By WILL JACKSON firstname.lastname@example.org
THE Northern Rivers' second-largest macadamia nut processor is going out of business.
Macadamia Industries Pty Ltd's (MIA) suppliers yesterday received a letter informing them the company would not be buying or processing this year.
The company's Dunoon factory will be sold as soon as possible and its operation at Wollongbar sold in the near future.
The money will go to paying the company's outstanding debts.
MIA last year processed 6800 tonnes of nut in shell worth $30 million.
More than 120 farms are expected to need somewhere else to send their produce and at least 20 people will probably lose their jobs.
The collapse is adding to the industry's already substantial problems.
MIA came undone after signing long-term contracts with about 11 of its suppliers, just before the industry suffered a massive unexpected downturn two years ago.
Chairman Findlay Andrews said he felt frustrated he couldn't reach agreement with some of his suppliers on a price that would allow MIA to remain competitive.
He said it was possible another operator could take over the Dunoon processing plant before the start of this year's harvest and there were already a couple of interested parties.
If that didn't happen, about 20 permanent staff would be made redundant.
The company also nor- mally hires about 40 casuals during the year.
Mr Andrews didn't expect his suppliers to sue for breach of contract.
"Contracts are legal documents, but if a company is going to be wound up, there's not much point going after them," he said.
Australian Macadamia Society general manager Andrew Heap said he still held hopes an agreement could be reached between MIA and its suppliers.
Failing that, the effect of the extra unprocessed nuts would add to the industry's existing oversupply.
Local nut processors are due to start collecting nuts in about six weeks, and begin processing two weeks after that.
"You'd have to be an optimist to expect someone to take over the operation in that time," he said.
Mr Heap didn't believe any farmers would go under with MIA.
"The most likely scenario is that other processors will take over, but the price will remain uncer- tain," he said.