GYMPIE'S status as Australia's third-biggest macadamia-growing region was endorsed yesterday when the new Australian Macadamia Society board assembled here with leading industry figures and local growers.
The board spent the day in talks on major opportunities and challenges for the industry, the crop forecast for this year, and its multi-million dollar research, development and marketing programs.
About 50 Gympie macadamia producers then attended a barbecue hosted by the board at the Mary Valley Motor Inn. Major Wolvi producer Troy Ziesemer said the gathering was a good opportunity for growers to network and discuss face-to-face with the nine board members the issues facing the industry and producers.
Macadamias are worth about $40 million a year to the Gympie economy, with 60 "enterprises" growing almost 500,000 of Australia's six million macadamia trees and
producing tonnes of macadamias for export and the domestic market.
Gympie is also historically significant to the industry, with some of Australia's first macadamia farms established near here as early as the 1960s, though most were established in the 1980s.
"Gympie is very close to the natural habitat of the macadamia, with Bauple (just north of Gympie) considered to be the home of the macadamia nut," AMS chief executive Jolyan Burnett said yesterday.
"So this is where a lot of the original plantings were made," he said.
Mr Burnett said Gympie growers were preparing for a busy season.
"We have had three very tough years, but this year it will be much better and we are hoping for a combination of a reasonably sized crop and better prices," he said.
"(Growers') Preparations have been somewhat buoyed by reasonably favourable conditions, including warm temperatures, ample sunlight and sufficient rains, which have helped the world's finest nut thrive throughout the growing season.
"Early predictions indicate a strong increase on last year's harvest in terms of yield."
About 70% of the Gympie crop is exported to more than 40 countries, the biggest markets being Europe, Japan, China and the US. But 30% of the nuts grown here are consumed by the domestic market.
Most are processed through Suncoast Gold Macadamias, though Gympie does have some independent operators who control their own value-adding and sell through local markets.
The AMS is a body of about 700 Australian and 20 overseas members representing all facets of the macadamia industry in Australia.
About 90% of Australian growers are members of the AMS, and they produce 96% of Australia's macadamias.