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The tasty delicacy our region gave the world

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The tasty delicacy our region gave the world

The humble macadamia is punching above its weight in the snack stakes, thanks to our farmers and Nutworks. WORDS: Caitlin Zerafa.

Australia and the world are going nuts for nuts – macadamia nuts, to be more specific. And here on the Sunshine Coast, the industry is thriving and contributing to a high demand for domestic and international export.

Just up the road at Mooloo, near Gympie, some 60 million years ago, the world’s first native macadamia tree evolved. The small but mighty nut is now a versatile and tasty delicacy enjoyed around the world.

The region is brimming with macadamia growers from the Glass House Mountains to Gympie, stretching as far north as Bundaberg.

From our region alone, some 12000 to 15000 tonnes of nuts are estimated to be grown every year.

These nuts then go into products such as butter or oil, are added to chocolate treats or confectionery, become roasted or flavoured, or are left raw to be enjoyed just as they are.

And one Sunshine Coast agribusiness is helping to provide an important link between the produce from local macadamia farmers and nut-hungry consumers.

Based at Yandina, Nutworks began as a processing factory in 1993. It has grown to a point today where it processes 10 per cent of the total Australian macadamia crop.

Speaking with My Weekly Preview, Nutworks international sales manager Sarah Leonard says the constant supply of produce grown in the region is seeing the industry boom locally.

She says Nutworks has a network of almost 80 macadamia growers on the Sunshine Coast, plus about 20 from the Bundaberg region.

Ms Leonard says high supply, plus a recently launched new range and product packaging, have resulted in a growth in exports and interest in Nutworks products globally.

“Nutworks has seen significant growth in the both the domestic market and export market since the launch of our fabulous new range earlier this year,” she says.

“Our retail store in Yandina had a record-breaking month in July, with many more macadamia fans visiting our café and shop. We have been proactive at international trade shows such as Japan and Korea and shall be attending a trade show in Vietnam in September, followed by a trip to China and Hong Kong towards the end of year.”

Ms Leonard says supply increases are also resulting in a record intake of macadamias, leading to Nutworks purchasing a second processing facility.

“Last season for 2022, Nutworks hit a record intake of 5000 tonnes, which is around 10 per cent of the Australian crop. Not too bad for a Sunshine Coast-based processor.

“To facilitate our fast growth, we purchased another facility in Cooroy just over 18 months ago.”

However, the increase in supply has lead to a farmgate price drop. That’s great news for consumers, but means farmers will be relying even more on macadamia lovers to purchase nuts.

“With the ever-changing supply and demand of macadamias, Nutworks is working closely with our valued growers on what’s been a difficult 2023 season due to the farmgate price drop,” Ms Leonard says.

“This year was predicted to have over-supply … which has resulted in the national crop to fall by approximately 20 per cent. This is due to a number of reasons, such as seasonal changes.

“We are paving the way within the retail world, giving the consumers delicious and unique flavours.

“Nutworks is one of the few 100 per cent Australian-owned and grown (companies) left in Australia and we are proud to give our consumers macadamias straight from the farm.”

Find Nutworks is at 37 Pioneer Road, Yandina, or visit nutworks.com.au.

From farm to table

A macadamia tree takes five years to grow to the point where its nuts are ready to harvest.

Macadamia farmers use special machinery to harvest the nuts once they’ve fallen off the trees. Once harvested, the outside husks are removed from the nuts. The raw material is then shipped out to Nutworks for processing. Some nuts have their shells removed and are then roasted, flavoured or used for chocolate treats or confectionery.

Others are used for macadamia oil. Many nuts are also sold with shells still on, with a special key so customers can crack them at home. All products are packaged on site, ready for sale on the domestic or overseas market.

Meet a local grower

Chris Fullerton is a proud Sunshine Coast macadamia grower, based at Glass House Mountains.

The Fullerton family has been farming in the area since 1914 and, four generations later, is still going strong.

The family first planted macadamias in 1996 and has been supplying Nutworks since 2002.

Another two macadamia orchards have been added to the farm recently, with more than 200 hectares of the nuts now growing.

Chris is sharing with My Weekly Preview an insight into life on the farm.

How long have you been a macadamia grower? We have been growing macadamias for approximately 25 years. Our citrus orchards became unprofitable. So, we decided to clear the citrus trees out and planted macadamia.

What do you love most about your job? I love working outdoors and get a real sense of satisfaction producing a great crop for thousands of others to enjoy eating.

How many macadamias do you grow, harvest and supply each year? We harvest from approximately 60,000 trees across our family’s orchards, producing between 800 and 1000 tonnes of nut in shell.

 What is your favourite way to enjoy macadamias? I love any of the Gourmet by Nutworks roasted, salted macadamias with an ice-cold beer.

What does a typical day on the farm look like? It always begins with an early start . Depending on what time of year it is, we could be harvesting, de-husking, spraying, maintaining the orchard, fertilising and monitoring pests, among many other things.

Did you know?

This region is the true birthplace of the Macadamia nut. The majestic macadamia tree first evolved 60 million years ago, in the perfect conditions of Queensland’s tropical rainforests. The native Australian tree nut was a valued traditional food source in our region long before European settlement, with Indigenous Australians considering macadamia nuts a delicacy – not too different from how the rest of the world see the nut today. In 2019, researchers from the University of Queensland found through extensive DNA studies that all the macadamias grown across Australia and around world can all trace their heritage to a small group of wild trees on private land in Mooloo, near Gympie and a wild site at Mount Bauple. Believe it or not, descendants of these original trees still exist in these locations. Proof for the region to be proud as the home of the tasty and 100 per cent original Australian nut.

 

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