DATA COLLECTION: Macadamia growers have been told to take a professional approach to their businesses for the future of the industry.
PROFESSIONAL growers will help propel the Australian macadamia industry forward.
That was one of the key messages to come out of the Australian Macadamia Society (AMS)’s March MacGroup and Food Heroes forum in Bundaberg last week.
Held at the Queensland Department of Agriculture’s (QDAF) Ashfield Road research station, the afternoon and evening event was jointly hosted by the AMS, and the Queensland Country Life in conjunction with Good Fruit & Vegetables magazine.
More than 100 industry representatives, including growers, gathered to hear the latest marketing, levy, expansion, crop and financial updates.
The figures listed for the macadamia industry would make many other agriculture sectors envious.
Over the past six years the Australian macadamia industry has enjoyed an 8 per cent annual growth while the average gross income is more than $17,000 per hectare.
Within that, the Bundaberg region has been achieving a 12pc annual growth for the same period, catapulting it to being the largest macadamia-producing region in the country.
According to the AMS, production is in the final stages of going from a boutique to a professional industry.
In his address to the gathering, AMS chief executive officer, Jolyon Burnett, announced the 2017 crop forecast at 54,000 tonnes nut-in-shell (NIS).
Australian Macadamia Society CEO, Jolyon Burnett, says solid growth and reinvestment has put the industry in good standing for the future. Picture: Lucy Kinbacher
“I’ve been looking around and I reckon it’s in the trees, whether it ends up in the silos or not is another matter,” Mr Burnett said.
“That depends on the weather from here on in and how good you guys are at your harvest.”
“But that’s a great result. That is the third year of steady, four to five per cent, year on year growth, and that’s coming at a time just when the industry needs it.”
He said the industry’s expansion was to be celebrated but it was pertinent to keep in mind the increased output from other countries such as China, Kenya and particularly South Africa.
“South Africa has been down for the last couple of years due to drought. They were probably 10,000 tonnes down in 2016. We’re not sure yet how much they’ll be down in 2017 but they will still be off the pace a little bit I believe,” Mr Burnett said.
“Any of you that have played cricket or rugby against the South Africans, you know that they will bounce back.
“They have been planting strongly in South Africa so there is a chance we could see a 60,000t crop come out of South Africa in 2018.”
The global demand for macadamias is such that Mr Burnett said increased global production was not something to be feared.
“We have been held back as a global industry over the last five, six or seven years, by lack of supply,” he said.
“If you look at the new products in terms of ice-creams, bakery products, cereal products, that have occurred with other nuts where supply is strongly growing, in macadamias, we’ve missed out on that.
“The marketplace is looking for confidence and supplies there. We’ve got to be confident we can back ourselves to direct our supply to the highest value markets.”
AMS productivity development officer, Robbie Commens, shared similar thoughts.
“The South African crop is a good thing for you and your macadamia business this year; it’s a challenge for you and your business going forward for the next five to 10 years,” Mr Commens said.
“We want that crop to be able to develop new products. We want more muesli bars, we want more ice-cream, we want less of a reliance on the kernel snack market.”
Mr Commens said the industry is experiencing an incredibly rare circumstance in agriculture where an increase in price has accompanied an increase in production.
GOING PRO: Australian Macadamia Society productivity development officer, Robbie Commens, says the sector is moving from a recreational to a professional industry. Picture: Lucy Kinbacher
“Let’s pause for a moment, realise the opportunity the industry has and take that long-term, professional focus going forward,” he said.
“We want professional growers and professional macadamia businesses.
Mr Commens said it wasn’t particularly about the size of orchards but encouraged tree owners to ask themselves if they were a professional grower or a recreational grower.
“The thing professional growers have in common, is a mindset,” he said.
“They’ve got that long-term business focus; they review data; look at what the possible scenario is going to be; develop a strategy and put it into action.”
Other topics covered during the afternoon included farm management deposits (FMDs), financial markets outlook and marketing strategies.
The information session was followed by afternoon tea then a field walk to look at the small tree – high productivity initiative, with a dinner held in town that evening.
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