Local farmers reaping rewards

Macadamia grower Leigh Holmes was flat out at the markets this week.
Macadamia grower Leigh Holmes was flat out at the markets this week. Bruce Thomas

COFFS Coast fruit and nut growers have struck pay dirt.

Blueberries are selling at close to $8 a punnet; bananas at $12-$14 a kilogram in supermarkets and the price of macadamias is predicted to be at an all-time high for the imminent harvest.

Leigh Holmes from G&L Nuts was selling all kinds of macadamia products at Thursday’s Grower’s Market in Coffs Harbour from cold-pressed macadamia oil and sweet dukka to dry-roasted salted nuts and honey-roasted macadamias.

This year’s harvest is now under way in Northern NSW and due to start soon for growers at Corindi, Bellingen and the Nambucca Valley.

Analysts are predicting an average price to growers of $3.30 per kg for standard quality nut in shell, well up from last year’s price of $2.65.

Nambucca Macnuts co-operative general manager Vince Collins said their estimate was $3 to $3.25 for average nuts in shell but they were expecting a smaller crop than last year because rain had interrupted flowering.

The factory at Macksville processes nuts from 60 member growers from Corindi to Taree and west to Thora.

This will be the third consecutive year Australian production has been below average and it coincides with smaller crops from competing nations and a depletion of worldwide stocks.

Some processors are quoting $16-$17/kg for the majority of nuts produced, which is close to an historically high global price for macadamias.

Meanwhile, the price of blueberries at Coffs Coast supermarkets has also climbed.

The general manager of Corindi-based Australian blueberry growing and marketing operation Berry Exchange, Peter McPherson, said it was the off-season for blueberries so prices would not begin reducing for months. He said there would be good volumes of fruit from July-August to October with Coffs Coast growers producing fruit from July right through to January.

“They are very, very scarce at the moment,” he said.

Mr McPherson was speaking from Hawaii on his way back from a major blueberry conference in the USA, where he was elected one of only four directors of a newly formed global body, the International Blueberry Organisation.

Boambee banana growers Marlene and Bob Grant understandably sold out of their weekly load of bananas at $2.50 a kilogram at Thursday’s Grower’s Market.

The Grants grow all the bananas they sell on their Englands Rd plantation, ripen their own fruit and sell exclusively through the Thursday market.

“They were walking out the door,” said Mrs Grant. “We had a lot and we sold a lot!”

Asked why their prices were so cheap when other local outlets were selling at $6-$7 a kilogram, Mrs Grant said while bananas were plentiful, they were happy to sell all their available fruit.

She said post Cyclone Yasi, banana prices were the best they had seen since Cyclone Larry hit the Queensland growers in 2007.

Topics:  coffs coast farmers prices

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