Macadamia prices go nutty
THE world's most luxurious nut - which started life in the Big Scrub of Australia's subtropical east coast - has a very bright future.
With global demand outstripping current supply, macadamia prices have shot up and there's every sign they will stay there for some time.
Now other countries want to get in on the action.
This week a Vietnamese delegation from the highest echelons of the country's state banks descended on Australia's macadamia growing strongholds for a two-week research tour.
Accompanied by a posse of journalists, the senior executives are doing their homework to help them decide whether to ramp up investment in the country's fledgling macadamia industry.
Yesterday the delegates were hosted by members of the Australian Macadamia Society, with chief executive Jolyon Burnett giving an overview of the Australian industry.
Australia, the macadamia's birthplace , leads global production with about 43,000 tonnes per year alongside South Africa, with Kenya and Hawaii in third and fourth place.
Australia is also the world's expert, with two distinct major growing regions - the nut's biological home on the North Coast still accounts for the most production, but may one day be overtaken by the emerging large-scale growth centre around Bundaberg.
Australia is the only country with a fully mechanised harvesting operation and leads the world's research in new productive varieties.
Mr Burnett said it was Australia's leading edge which made it happy to help out newbies like Vietnam develop good quality nuts.
"The problem for us is there is demand that we can't meet," Mr Burnett said. "Just five countries take 70% of all the world's production, if we could make that 10 countries we could double demand.
"That's why I do think it's in my members and the Australian industry's interests to help these guys out.
"It's going to grow the pie, and I think our growers are good enough to grow their slice of the pie as the pie grows."
Overall, it's a hugely exciting time for the macadamia. The only bad news is for local consumers: Unless you own a farm, don't expect to get cheaper maca nuts anytime in the near future.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Global production: 100,000 tonnes
Australian production: 43,000 tonnes
Estimated unmet demand: 50,000 tonnes