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Macadamia season worst in 15 years

Mixed weather turned a promising start to the 2009 macadamia season into a virtual disaster for local farmers and they are facing the prospect of more high prices and short supplies for 2010.
Mixed weather turned a promising start to the 2009 macadamia season into a virtual disaster for local farmers and they are facing the prospect of more high prices and short supplies for 2010. Agrimac Macadamias

THE 2009 macadamia season was the worst in at least 15 years, an industry expert has claimed on the back of figures released last Friday.

And the coming season might not be much better.

Marketing manager for Alstonville-based Agrimac Macadamias, Darren Burton, said 20 to 30 per cent of last year’s crop was lost because of bad weather.

“It started out like it was going to be a good crop, but it turned out to be incredibly disappointing for the whole industry, for processors and growers,” he said.

“We had storms and floods. A lot was lost. The quality of the product was affected negatively by the weather, so there have been some severe financial impacts.

“We started the season with a low carry-over of kernels from the previous year. Combined with a short year, there’s now a real shortage of macadamias in the marketplace. That’s not good for our customers. It has also put upward pressure on pricing.”

Australian Macadamia Society chief executive, Jolyon Burnett, said the 2009 macadamia crop was officially put at 37,500 tonnes nut in shell, or 10,500 tonnes kernel.

“This second short crop in a row means a continuing tight market and is disappointing in light of the significant new plantings that have taken place over the last decade,” he said.

“These should be coming into commercial production and be reflected in crop figures.”

With the macadamia market now tighter than ever, 2010 prices are expected to be at least 10 per cent higher than 2009 prices.

“I have never seen such a shortage in the marketplace,” Mr Burton said.

“It’s not an ideal situation when you’re trying to develop the industry.”

Growers had been hopeful 2010 would be a better macadamia season, with good flowerings in August and September.

But 35 degree days during that period once again upset the balance.

“Most of the flowers shrivelled up and died. There were a lot of very disappointed growers after we had that weather,” Mr Burton said.

But he hasn’t given up hope.

He said the past eight weeks had seen nuts ‘size up’ and reports from growers were increasingly optimistic.

“It certainly won’t be a big crop in 2010, but hopefully it will be average,” he said.

“However, it’s almost impossible to accurately predict future crops. This is very much just an estimate. At the moment we’re just hopeful.”

The Australian Macadamia Society will release the first estimate of the 2010 crop in April.



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