Organic nuts on the grow
AN EASIER life for the region’s organic nut farmers was revealed yesterday, when the Macadamia Processing Company (MPC) opened its doors to them.
Now those farmers wishing to grow macadamias without using synthetic chemicals will have an organic processing and marketing service available to them – cutting costs and freeing them up to concentrate on horticulture.
At a small ceremony, when the project was launched by Page MP Janelle Saffin, MPC chairman Chris Ford said the company was continuing the innovation that had helped it become the largest processor in Australia.
“This recognises the growing demand for organic products around the world,” he said.
“The market for organics in Australia is tipped to grow by 13.4 per cent a year.”
He said that among other incentives for farmers to convert to organic production were crops’ resilience to threats posed by climate change and the better prices they fetched.
The company’s general manager, Larry McHugh, said the two main reasons people bought organic products were health and concern for the environment.
Australia was well placed to satisfy these requirements, he said, because of its sound regulatory framework.
The MPC plant at Alphadale is certified for organic processing, which means it has to treat those nuts separately, and only after the machinery has been cleaned.
Farmers wishing to join the MPC’s program also need to obtain organic certification, which comes through Australian Certified Organic, an arm of Biological Farmers of Australia.
One grower in the process of converting to organics is Bill Moorhouse, who has a small holding of 2000 trees at Alphadale.
“I’ve always been a bit scared of chemicals and only ever sprayed when I absolutely had to,” he said yesterday.
“For a while now, I’ve used chook poo and a few trace elements, which are allowed.”
He has also brought in predatory wasps that kill the eggs of the nut borer.
Because he was expecting ‘a lousy crop’ last year he didn’t spray then, thereby stealing a year on the usual three-year transition process.
He also got a better crop, which encouraged him down the organic route.
“And why not, if it’s going to make growers more money?” Mr Moorhouse asked.