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  • Macadamias, almonds embrace record harvests

    Dec 16th, 2016

    MATURING new plantations and overseas hunger for Aussie nuts are factors that have helped two Australian tree nut crops stare down record harvests.As the macadamia industry applauded the completion of a bin-busting year, almond growers are gearing up for a similar scenario in the coming months. The Australian Macadamia Society's (AMS) recently released figures showed a record crop for the second consecutive year with 52,000 tons in-shell at 10 per cent moisture (48,600t in-shell at 3.5pc moisture).

    The 2016 crop proved slightly higher than the original forecast of 50,000t in-shell (10pc moisture) and represents an 8pc increase on last year’s crop.Kernel production will remain on par with 2015 at 10,500t.In another significant milestone for the industry, there was a change as to what area could wear the macadamia heartland crown.

    For the first time, Queensland's Bundaberg region produced the single largest share of the nation’s macadamia nuts with more than 40pc coming from the sugarcane-producing locale.The Northern Rivers area of NSW was traditionally the centre for macadamia nut production.AMS CEO Jolyon Burnett said there were several reasons for the good result, including favourable weather conditions throughout the season and a longer than expected harvest "tail" end.

    “There have been no adverse weather events and good prices have made it economically viable for growers to complete additional harvest rounds,” Mr Burnett said.“Growers devoted significant time and resources into this crop, investing heavily in productivity improvements in their orchards."This is now paying dividends in terms of production, and orchards are in good condition going into next season.”

    Next year is heading into now familiar territory as well. Mr Burnett said while it was too early to accurately predict, indications pointed toward another good year.He said global demand remained strong across the board for both kernel and in-shell, and recent free trade agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Japan and China had helped.Exports of Australian macadamias to Korea have increased by 150pc since the FTA, and exports to Japan have increased by 18pc.Almonds a plenty in southern states, almond producers are shaping up for more nuts than usual when harvesting commences in February.

    A recent meeting of the Almond Board of Australia (ABA) reported the forthcoming crop would be 85,000 tons.The significant expansion of almond orchards currently underway is expected to push production levels to about 130,000 tons by 2025.The ABA believes this substantial growth in supply will be matched by growth in consumer demand, just as it has during the past decade as the industry has grown from 16,000 tons in 2006 to 80,000 tons in 2016.This is 3000 tons more than the 2015 crop which is largest the industry has produced.

    Almond Board of Australia CEO Ross Skinner said the industry’s expectation for a record crop will further bolster its export capacity and value."The increase is mainly due to improved yields, as recent orchard plantings are not yet producing and there have been some significant removals of mature trees as some orchards enter a replanting phase,” Mr Skinner said.Mr Skinner said with the milder weather experienced so far maturity of the nuts is lagging about two weeks behind the norm, so harvest may be a little delayed, but nut quality appears to be very good.

    “In recent years there has been strong growth in both domestic and export market demand, and we are confident the extra tonnage will not disrupt returns to growers which although coming off the high reached in late 2015/16 are still at a good level," he said.“The Californian industry’s monthly shipments are at record levels, and the increase in their sales is outstripping the percentage growth in their 2016 production. This will further lessen the stocks held in California.“Almonds are now very competitively priced compared to other nuts, and use by manufacturers is a strong growth area with over 200 new products using almonds as an ingredient going onto supermarket shelves in the last year.

    “As consumers around the world become more health conscious they are eating more and more nuts for the many health benefits they give."These benefits range from muscle development to improved brain function, reduced heart disease, diminished fatty livers and lessened risk of diabetes and obesity.“There is an increasing focus on food contributing to better health, and almonds are a major part of recommended nutrition.”