23.8.11 Better season is budding for macadamia growers

23.8.11 Better season is budding for macadamia growers

Australian macadamia growers are keeping their fingers crossed for a strong comeback season as millions of beautiful buds grace thousands of macadamia trees across the north coast of New South Wales and southern Queensland.

The picturesque and fragrant blooming of Australia’s native nut is a welcome sight for an industry hit hard by three years of adverse weather events and while a great flowering is a good sign, CEO of Australian Macadamia Society, Jolyon Burnett, says it doesn’t guarantee a bumper bounty.

“The promising start to spring brings hope to growers who have been waiting for an upturn since the last big macadamia crop in 2006,” he said. “The past few years have posted respectable flowerings, but the persistent rain this season, dry weather last season and the floods and storms of 2009 have put the brakes on a significant yield. This is a critical time for growers and we hope this spectacular flowering will turn into a spectacular crop.”

As few as three per cent of flowers can be converted to nuts and only half of those reach full maturity if conditions are not favourable.

“We’re not counting our kernels before they crack, but we are enjoying seeing the orchards at their most beautiful and the sweet aroma the flowers give off puts a spring in the step,” Mr Burnett said.

Macadamia trees grow to heights of more than 15 metres in fertile soils of temperate, high rainfall areas. They have shiny dark green leaves and bear sprays of long, sweetly scented creamy white or pink flowers from which clusters of nutlets grow. Each spray of 40-50 flowers produces from four to 15 nutlets which ripen into nuts. The nuts fall to the ground between March and September and are harvested at regular intervals.

While honeybees are the main pollinators of macadamias offshore, Australian macadamia orchards can also rely on a number of native bees and insects for pollination which gives our indigenous nut a unique and delicious flavour.

Macadamias are grown along the eastern seaboard of New South Wales and Queensland, from Nambucca Heads in the south through to Mackay in the north. About 60% of the Australian crop is produced in the NSW Northern Rivers district.

There are approximately 850 macadamia growers in Australia, producing around 35,500 tonnes in 2010 with an export value of around $120-130 million per annum.