Nuts beginnings traced to down under

With more people leading health conscious and plant-based lifestyles, the world is, well… going nuts for Aussie nuts!

A recent report by Dr Craig Hardner from the University of Queensland and Catherine Nock from the Southern Cross University revealed that 70 per cent of the world’s macadamia nuts could be traced back to a single tree, planted in the 19th century, in the small Queensland town of Gympie, 160km north of Brisbane.

How incredible! It got the team at AustralianFarmers thinking about the quiet achievers that make up Australia’s nut industry. Our intrigue led to some seriously fascinating information.

Australian macadamia tree. Photo: Macadamias Australia

Macadamias are native to southern Queensland and northern NSW. However, today the country that produces the most macadamias is Hawaii. 

Historical records show that seeds from the original trees in Gympie were taken to Honolulu in 1896.

The nut was repeatedly cloned by an Australian cultivator meaning the commercial macadamia tree has an incredibly low genetic diversity, so the nut could only be grown in specific places.

It’s all about the almonds!

Today nut’s are a big business in Australia – but it‘s not all about macadamias.

According to Australian Almonds, almonds are Australian’s number one nut choice with 48% of households purchasing the nut in the past financial year.

For every tonne sold in Australia, 2.4 tonnes are exported – lifting the Australian almond export industry to be worth $429 million.

In fact, almond ‘milk’ alone is forecast to be an industry worth about $3 billion in the Asia-Pacific region by 2022.

Australia produces 80,000 tonnes of almonds a year from more than 11.5 million trees. Soon it might be raining almonds because that number is set to rise as 27% of orchard plantings are not yet bearing any nuts and another 30% aren’t fully mature.

By the year 2020 Australia is expected to produce 97,000 tonnes of almonds, with Victoria producing 68% of the country’s almonds.

Almonds aren’t just booming in Australia, the global almond industry had doubled since 2004 and is moving towards a 50% growth by 2022.

A chocolatey investment

Hazelnuts too are making their mark.

The fourth biggest confectionery company in the world, Ferrero – the makers of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Nutella – recently planted one million hazelnut trees over 2,600 hectares near Narrandera in the Riverina region of NSW.

Ferrero’s hazelnut farm in Narranderra, NSW. Photo: ABC

Ferrero already has a factory in Lithgow, employing more than 100 people but this is Ferrero’s first farm in Australia. The company who runs the farm, Agri Australis, invested $70 million and in the process created 54 jobs.

The trees are hoping to yield 5,000 tonnes by 2020, which is a significant increase from the 170 tonnes currently grown in Australia.

A major hurdle for the industry is Australia’s warm climate as hazelnuts thrive during cool winters and mild summers.

Despite its successes, the Australian hazelnut industry has a long way to go to catch up to Turkey who produce 70 per cent of the world’s hazelnuts.

Andrea Martinello

Andrea Martinello

Andrea is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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