A MAJOR expansion to a macadamia nut processing plant has been approved by Bundaberg Regional Council.
NSW company FNC Plantations applied to the council for approval to expand its Electra operation by adding an extra six drying silos and a shell silo to the two it already operates for de-husking and drying the nuts.
FNC Plantations director Matthew Knappick said once the nuts had been processed here they would be shipped to China for further processing.
"We're farmers, not processors," he said.
After the nuts had undergone further processing in China they would be brought back to Australia before being exported to places such as Europe.
Mr Knappick said at its peak the plant would process about 1500 tonnes of nuts a year.
However, they were still building towards that target.
"We've got farms in the region with trees in the four- to seven-year stage," he said.
"We've got to wait a while before full capacity."
Mr Knappick said the company would look to doing a full cost analysis after the end of the harvest in about August.
Town planner Randall Barrington, who steered the proposal through the council's approval process, said the development came on top of a recently approved $12 million marina for Burnett Heads.
"It reinforces the confidence people have to invest in Bundaberg," he said.
"These people are out of towners who see a great opportunity to invest here."
The council's planning and development committee was told the facility would process nuts from the farm on which it was sited and other farms in the region owned by the company.
Nuts in the husk would be taken to the site in 12-tonne skip bins and then de-husked by a hammer mill.
They are then put into a drying silo where air is fan forced through them, reducing nut moisture content to 10-12%.
The nut in shell is then loaded into a 20-tonne shipping container and taken to the Port of Brisbane for shipment to China.
The committee was told the plant would only operate about six months a year, from March to August.
Macadamia planting in the Bundaberg region started in about 2003
5800ha is under macadamias, making it the largest crop by area in the region
Bundaberg is the second largest macadamia region in Australia
It produces 25% of Australia's macadamias