Gympie business going nuts with record crop
GYMPIE'S macadamia season is about to kick off with Suncoast Gold Macadamias to begin processing the current crop, touted as a record yield.
Suncoast Gold Macadamia CEO Lisa Worthington said the processing facility has hired nine new casual staff to complement their returning casuals and full time staff, taking their number to around 68 employees.
Of the number of employees, 18 are full-time permanent, 16 have been working with them for over 10 years and amongst those, six have been there for more than 20 years.
Ms Worthington said the facility has undergone a $300,000 investment in new technology in the off-season and trained new staff to increase the efficiency and viability of the business.
"This business has been here for more than 30 years and we have invested in people and the community," she said.
"Our line is: we want you to bring the best, and we will be the best.
"Everyone has to be happy in themselves and in their job.
"If our workers aren't happy and doing their best than our business won't do well."
The factory has been a mainstay in the Gympie region for decades, alongside other factories such as Nestle and Nolans.
She said the business has developed a strong market in the ingredient sector, providing kernel to large food manufacturers producing ice cream, cereals and confectionery.
"We focus a lot on products for the ingredient business but we also participate a little in the in-shell market in China," Ms Worthington said.
"Our traditional snack markets of Germany and America are still showing strong demand."
Ms Worthington said there were concerns foreign processing companies and organisations may negatively disrupt the market, and the efficiency in her factory is a way of ensuring fair prices and jobs.
"We are concerned, on the longer term, about the price to the grower and ensure our products and customers are diversified to increase stability
"The efficiency in the factory allows us to keep doing what we are doing and that allows us to give a good price to our growers.
"It's all about working with our growers and keeping them engaged with us and value adding to them.
With the price of macadamias near a record high price per kilogram, Ms Worthington said the Gympie region is now the second largest growing region in Queensland, after Bundaberg and her factory the second largest processing facility in the state.
Queensland grows more macadamias than New South Wales, with Australia estimated to produce 54,000 tonnes in-shell as a whole.
That is 4 per cent higher than the 2016 record crop.
Ms Worthington, who previously worked in wool production, selling and trading, jumped ship and into macadamias after identifying it as a growth industry.
"Wool was always a declining industry and I saw the macadamia market growing.
"I relocated to Queensland for lifestyle and a new challenge.
"The food industry is a growth industry.
"We've seen a large shift in people growing macadamias - former cattle farmers, even engineers.
"In Bundaberg, there's many sugar cane farmers and small crop farmers switching to macadamias purely driven by price.
"It doesn't involve as much labour and there's less risk when it comes to hiring labour, such as backpackers. It is more mechanised.
"As labour costs increase overseas, our efficiency in Australia means we will be well placed to be competitive."
AMS Chief Executive Officer Jolyon Burnett attributes the continued growth to the sustained investment into orchards by Australian macadamia growers over the last four to five years.
He said the growth in supply is commensurate with the continued strong growth in demand for Australian-grown macadamias.
"The Australian industry will continue to be a consistent reliable supplier into the future due to this investment and plans for further orchard expansion in many regions," Mr. Burnett said.
Australian production has steadily grown since 2014 when it was 43,600 at 10% moisture (40,700 at 3.5% moisture).