Macadamia grower Neil Jung inspects nuts from trees on his macadamia farm at Tregeagle. Northern Rivers growers fear they will get a poor harvest next year due to heatwave conditions in August.
Macadamia grower Neil Jung inspects nuts from trees on his macadamia farm at Tregeagle. Northern Rivers growers fear they will get a poor harvest next year due to heatwave conditions in August. Doug Eaton

Heatwave drives growers nuts

A HEATWAVE in August is being blamed as the cause of a likely poor nut yield from macadamia trees across the Northern Rivers.

Earlier in the season, good flowering had growers and processors optimistic about the possibility of a bumper yield next year.

However, those hopes have now been dashed after unseasonable August temperatures, as high as 35.5 degrees, affected pollination, which in turn led to very low nut set. The mean temperature for Lismore in August is normally 21.5degrees.

“Very poor,” is how Tregeagle macadamia farmer Neil Jungdescribed his macadamia farm’s performance.

Mr Jung said next year’s winter harvest would see his 2000 macadamia trees yield about half their normal crop.

Making matters worse, the current nut price is about $2.30 a kilo.

“That’s what we were getting in 1999,” Mr Jung said.

“You need $2.80 just to keep your head above water.”

Last year, prolonged rain during harvest affected the quality of the nuts and washed many away. In 2007, the macadamia nut price dropped to about $1.50.

Mr Jung said he had heard stories about local macadamia growers struggling to keep up with their payments on finance.

“You only have to look around at the number of macadamia farms up for sale,” he said.

NSW Department of PrimaryIndustries horticulturist Jeremy Bright said there were a number of theories about the cause of this season’s low nut set, but the heat inAugust was the most plausible.

He said the degree to which growers were affected varied depending on their location.

“On coastal areas there seems to be less (loss), but greater damage to production in the west,” he said.

Australian Macadamia Society chief executive Jolyon Burnett said nut variety also had been a factor, with most traditional Hawaiianvarieties affected.

Mr Burnett said the local industry was still in its infancy and would find ways to cope with the effects of climate variability.

The Northern Rivers macadamia industry each year produces about 15,000 tonnes of macadamia kernels and is valued at between $80 million and $100 million.



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