Macadamia nut farmer John Underhill shows why this year’s harvest is down: Ex-cyclone Oswald wreaked havoc on orchards.
Macadamia nut farmer John Underhill shows why this year’s harvest is down: Ex-cyclone Oswald wreaked havoc on orchards.

June Macadamia harvest downgraded

THE weather has worked against Northern Rivers macadamia producers, resulting in a downgrade of the June harvest prediction, according to Australian Macadamia Society CEO Jolyon Burnett.

As a result, the AMS has revised its forecast for the 2013 Australian crop down to 36,500 tonnes in-shell at 10% moisture.

Most growing regions were devastated by the ex-tropical cyclone Oswald storms in January and February, however, many regions have since suffered the effects of even more wet weather.

It is estimated that 5000 tonnes will be sold to China in-shell, leaving an intake by Australian processors of 31,500 tonnes.

Based on current sound kernel recoveries for the season, this will produce a kernel yield of 8500 tonnes.

"The June forecast of 39,000 tonnes was based on historical data and factory intake to the end of May," Mr Burnett said.

"June and July receivals have fallen well short of expectations."

"This is a frustrating result at a time when global demand for macadamia kernel is strong. There is growing awareness of the health and beauty benefits of macadamias and their versatility as an ingredient in new products."

Meanwhile this summer's coming harvest is looking good at this point - orchard flowering is at its peak - but there is a long way to go with many hurdles in the way.

Lace bug is rearing its head as an invasive pest - and one not traditionally seen in local orchards and, of course, spring storms and summer rains may well wreak havoc on the next crop.

But demand is growing, and China looming as a potential market.

This year 5000 tonnes of nut in shell will go to the Chinese to help satisfy a brand new demand for macadamias - packed in bags as whole nut with kernel. The kernel is cracked and is packed with a little key that is inserted into the crack and twisted to open the raw nut.

But Mr Burnett said the society was keen to 'mature' that market into one that enjoys value-added kernel, like other Asian countries, Japan in particular.

"We would not want to see the in-shell market grow. That would cut us out of the value adding."

Keep farming

In other news, the Macadamia Society is now keen to encourage its aging farmer base to maintain their orchards, even if they decide to retire from the industry.

"Like all agriculture in Australia, the base age of farmers continues to grow. The average age of a macadamia farmer is 60," said Mr Burnett.

"Our biggest challenge is to satisfy a growing global market so we want to keep our growers.

"We want to make sure our orchards stay productive."

He said older growers might consider sharefarming or hiring a manager to do the lion's share of work around the farm.



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