Shell-shocked macadamia growers pick up pieces
By WILL JACKSON
THE Northern Rivers macadamia industry has been left in a state of shock following revelations its second-largest processor is going out of business.
And the issue is proving so controversial none of the suppliers affected has been willing to speak publicly about it.
Wollongbar-based Macadamia Industries Australia announced on Friday it was closing, leaving more than 120 farms without a processor and 20 people out of a job.
One farmer who has supplied MIA for 20 years said he was very upset.
"I can't talk about it," he said, asking not to be named.
"I'm just trying to work out what I'm going to do."
However, it looks unlikely there will be too many nuts wasted.
John Wilkie, chief executive of Alstonville processor Agrimac, said his company had spare capacity to take on more nut in shell, and other processors probably did as well.
"The market will be there for growers' nut in shell," he said.
"The truth of the matter is the global kernel price is so low at the moment MIA's demise won't really have that much impact."
However, he added MIA's suppliers would have to settle for a lower price than they would otherwise have got.
Things would improve over the next couple of years, Mr Wilkie said, but in the meantime farmers were going to have to tough it out.
"They will need to have a reasonable financial buffer," he said. "If they don't and they're up to their eyeballs in debt.... The market is very, very bad at the moment."
He said it was not the first time the industry had gone through hard times. "This time the adjustment in price was so sudden, and so severe," he said.