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New Zealand macadamia industry to embark on significant 10-year growth strategy

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One of Torere Macadamias' varieties with premium crops One of Torere Macadamias' varieties with premium crops

The New Zealand macadamia industry is embarking on a ten-year growth strategy to dramatically increase domestic production reports Matthew Russell for FreshPlaza.

Torere Macadamias are one of the largest producers in NZ, and is playing a key role in the development of the plan. The company has set a goal of 500,000 trees at 400 trees per hectare by 2028, and its Director Vanessa Hayes is also NZ Macadamia Society Vice President, Variety Researcher and Industry developer.

She adds that major plantings are planned for the Tairawhiti, East Coast, Bay of Plenty/Thames, Waikato and South Auckland areas, which have have exceeded current supplies with plant orders fully booked to 2020.

“To meet this demand Torere Macadamias scaled up nursery production from 15,000 to 50,000 plants per annum, by partnering with Tairawhiti Eastland Institute of Technology (EIT) Horticultural Unit to supply 20,000 trees per annum,” Ms Hayes said. “The partnership includes education and training for students and Orchard Managers to ensure industry growth is supported from planting through to production.”

The 10-year growth strategy involves three stages; increasing plant production, science research, and Grower Cooperative with Processing factory partnerships.

The first stage includes a partnership between Torere Macadamias and EIT to expand and optimise nursery operations with systems to improve efficiencies and increase plant quality and production. The partnership includes developing NZ Qualifications Authority levels and setting up classroom and work-based training facilities.

The second stage will obtain scientific evidence and composition properties of the nine varieties from 42 trialled from 1993 to date - that Torere Macadamias have sole rights.

“These varieties significantly improve the viability of growing macadamias in NZ,” Ms Hayes said. “For example, proven high percentage quality kernel recovery - of whole kernel (Style 0 and 1) - high oil, low susceptibility to GVB, choice of Early, Mid and Late harvest varieties and geo-mapping to identify the best regions to grow each variety.

Ms Hayes says further scientific evidence is required to verify why Torere Macadamias nuts were named as the best tasting and biggest at the International Macadamia Research Symposium in Hawaii in 2017. This is set to include, identifying and maximising this unique point of difference and the properties for NZ macadamias, is vital for development of dedicated products for international branding and marketing opportunities.

While the third stage will set up a corporate structure, with grower meetings and board appointments, as well as develop regional and international branding to secure sales and marketing pathways. Ms Hayes says while it is not for every grower, joining the co-op has several advantages, both personally and for the industry.

"If you are a new grower, the co-op eliminates the need to find processors, markets and all the stuff required to get your product to sale," she said. "It also provides the opportunity to invest in your own profit share business and benefit from cost sharing. Overall, it eliminates price wars between growers that could be detrimental to the industry, particularly as the numbers of growers is increasing dramatically."

There are currently 200 growers producing around 66 tonnes of macadamias kernel for the domestic market with only a very small percentage exported. Demand for NZ macadamias far outstrips supply, and Ms Hayes says they just do not have enough trees in the ground.

“However, increased yields from the new productive dropping varieties will gradually overtake the current 138 tonnes of imported kernel within five years and yields will continue to escalate,” Ms Hayes added. “For example, projections for 2028 based on plant demand and ongoing development plans; estimate that 750 growers will be producing 825 tonnes of kernel with at least 50 per cent exported as high value-add products made in NZ.”

While increased plant production, education and training, scientific research and industry structures are being implemented from 2018, Ms Hayes is securing International partnerships to develop and produce organic high value-add products in NZ, such as natural cosmetics for export from 2019.

The 2018 NZ Macadamia Society (NZMS) membership jumped from 15 in 2017 to 50, due to Torere Macadamias encouragement of new growers to join. Ms Hayes says the NZMS serves as a forum for growers to share ideas, whereas the pending Grower Cooperative offers the opportunity for growers to improve their financial returns. As there is no industry body setup to drive growth or macadamia research and development in NZ, Torere Macadamias as Variety Researcher for 35 years has taken the lead role of Industry Developer.