DEMAND for a consistent year round supply of macadamia nuts is propelling the expansion of the niche industry in Queensland.
Costi Farms managing director Peter Costi sees a bright future for Australia’s estimated 300 growers.
The 150 growers affiliated with Macadamia Processing Company now have enough supply between the factories to be major suppliers of Woolworths in Australia and Costco in the US.
Mr Costi started his career in macadamias at the age of about 12, spending time with the world’s largest grower Phil Zadro in Bundaberg.
He bought his first farm at Baffle Creek in 1998, then planted a significant holding in Rockhampton, which was sold to an American company in 2006.
At that time, the price for macadamias had softened and Mr Costi seized the opportunity to buy established farms.
“I saw the opportunity to buy distressed farms, I bought a lot and turned them around so built our business on purchasing large farms that had income straight away,” Mr Costi said.
He now has eight farms from Bundaberg to Mount Beerwah and the factories he is involved with produce about 51 per cent of Australia’s entire macadamia crop.
Macadamias are grown predominantly in central and south-east Queensland and on the NSW north coast.
They are harvested between March to the end of August and Australia’s growers yield about 47,000-48,000 tonnes a year.
“Macadamias have really turned the corner as far as being a boutique nut, and it has been hard to get the volume. For that supply to grow we need more trees in the ground.”
Mr Costi said macadamias made up just 0.9 per cent of the total nut meat globally, so there was plenty of room to expand.
“It’s virtually 1 per cent of the market, with almonds, pistachios and other nuts our competitors. Those industries have grown quicker, so as an industry we are very young and we have an extremely bright future on the horizon.”
Mr Costi said established growers would be the ones to expand and increase supply.
Mr Costi himself is cultivating 250,000 seedlings in his nursery and is looking to establish a new farm in Rockhampton.
“Maryborough/Gympie is another area; we’ve got a large holding at Bauple that we are looking to expand.”
“The biggest problem is the cost of entry is prohibitive, unless you’ve got another business to fund it for the first eight years, entry to the industry is very difficult. Mainly the large growers are the ones really expanding the industry.”