Nut farmers to sell interstate
THE quest for the humble macadamia nut is turning into a fully-fledged battle, with one large Queensland processor last week off-ering incentives to Northern Rivers growers to send produce over the border.
Jeff Dodd, director of Toowoomba-based Stahmann Farms, yesterday confirmed the company held information sessions at Bangalow last week offering growers a new payment structure as processors compete for an expected dwindling supply of the nuts next year.
“It was a social gathering to catch up with our existing growers and also to get some new growers on board as well,” he said.
“We have been operating in the area for 25 years and we would like to increase our volumes.”
According to the AustralianMacadamia Society, international demand for maccas has surged in recent years, but three consecutive poor growing seasons have created an acute shortage.
AMS’s chief executive, Jolyon Burnett, said while competition for supplies between the country’s eight main processors would mean farmers may get a higher price, increases would be constrained by the high Australian dollar which was already pushing the price of maccas on shop shelves out of the reach of many consumers.
“Demand has been growing quite strongly, but the biggest challenge to the industry is satisfying that demand,” he said.
“We have seen prices firm over last year, but because 70 per cent of the crop is exported, the price of Australian macadamias internationally is dependent on the strength of the dollar.
For overseas customers there has been a 30pc increase in price, quite apart from the shortage.”
Larry McHugh, general manager of Alphadale-based Macadamia Processing Company, Australia’s largest processor, said while there was nothing unusual with interstate companies sourcing nuts from the Northern Rivers, he said renewed efforts to sign up growers reflected the increased competition among processors.
“We are all running out of macadamias and we know next year we are going to need a lot more,” he said.
“Competition between processors is building and it will be very intense next year. At the moment we are in the off-season, so the nuts are only just forming on the trees, but there are people out there trying to buy them already.”
Mr McHugh said his company was a co-operative, meaning all profits went back to members.
“Others have tried processing growers’ batches separately, but they have realised they can’t sustain that and have gone back to sampling and paying growers based on that,” he said.