Bundaberg going nuts for macadamia
THE Bundaberg region is well on the way to becoming the macadamia nut capital of Australia, according to industry sources.
With two new processing plants being built in the district and many growers abandoning labour-intensive crops such as the traditional sugar and vegetables, the focus of macadamias is gradually shifting away from northern NSW.
The Bundaberg Regional Council recently gave approval for a processing plant to be built at the Bingera Sugar Mill that would process 4000 to 5000 tonnes of nuts a year.
But the nuts, still in their shells, would be sent to NSW for final processing.
A $12 million plant being built by Winfield-based Pacific Gold Macadamias is still on track to be operational by next year.
Pacific Gold general manager Shane Johnson said the bad weather had recently caused some problems, but the plant was still going ahead.
He said the new facility would give them much larger premises closer to Bundaberg that would complete the processing.
“We process the nuts, take the shell off, roast them and market them around Australia and overseas.”
Mr Johnson said Pacific Gold sourced its nuts from growers around the Bundaberg area.
“In a few years this area will be a major producer,” he said.
“It's probably the second largest in Australia.”
Australian Macadamia Society chief executive Jolyon Burnett agreed with that assessment.
He said northern NSW remained the biggest producer in Australia, with the Bundaberg region accounting for about 20% of the nuts produced.
But he said Bundaberg was the fastest growing production region.
Bundaberg was the most reliable production region and had some of the most skilled growers.
“Many of them are former sugar cane or vegetable growers who are looking for good returns but without the labour requirements,” he said.
“With macadamias the harvesting is all mechanical, unlike vegetable crops.”
Mr Burnett said Bundaberg could well be the biggest macadamia nut production area in Australia in five to 10 years.
“It could well overtake NSW,” he said.