CROP LOSS: Rick Paine and his son-in-law Bill Johnstone with damaged trees at his Alstonville macadamia farm Merraldan.
CROP LOSS: Rick Paine and his son-in-law Bill Johnstone with damaged trees at his Alstonville macadamia farm Merraldan. Cathy Adams

Storms to slash nut crop

THE macadamia industry could see a 30-40% crop loss for the year if the current projections of this next severe weather event come to pass.

Australian Macadamia Society president Jolyon Burnett said the immediate effect of the East Coast tropical low sitting off the coast of the Northern Rivers would delay the clean-up plans of most farmers from the effects of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald three weeks ago.

"We need a clean orchard floor for harvesting," he said. "Already farmers are seeing the mature nuts beginning to drop from the trees."

With the Bureau of Meteorology predicting rainfalls of up to 300mm and damaging winds today, Mr Burnett said in a worst-case scenario macadamia farmers could see more of their crop destroyed.

"Depending on how long the rain goes for, if we get more damaging winds and flood, then double the amount of crops could be lost," he said.

"It will definitely drive some growers to the wall."

Mr Burnett said even for farmers who had cleaned up from the previous storm, they would find themselves back at square one with the same amount of damage on the orchard floor. "We could be looking at a 30-40% crop loss," he said.

Farmers don't even have the option of mitigating the damage of up to 90kmh winds on their trees, Mr Burnett said.

"If the farmers drive on to the orchard floor with a chipper or mulcher, they cause large wheel rut marks in the ground, which means they could lose the mature nuts that fall from the trees," he said.

Rick Paine of Alstonville has 4500 trees on his plantation and says 90kmh winds will bring a lot more damage.

"We've already had some winds come through and break a few branches," he said.



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