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AU: Manufacturing sector and product quality are keys to growing macadamia industry
Marketing initiatives that target the food manufacturing sector and better communicate Australia's strengths, is vital in the growth of the country's macadamia industry, according to its industry body, the Australian Macadamia Society.
The industry’s research and development corporation, Hort Innovation, this year launched the macadamia sector’s five-year Strategic Investment Plan, in conjunction with the largest trade push horticulture has ever seen. The Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) says macadamias are a relatively new product and still quite rare, with 75 per cent of global kernel production being consumed in just 5 countries.
Australian Macadamia Society Market Development Manager Lynne Ziehlke says while Australia's production costs are higher than other countries, it has built a reputation for quality, reliability and consistency and is the only producer that has a residue survey in place and achieved 100 per cent compliance for 20 years.
"We need to make the most of our competitive advantages," she said. "Most low-cost countries don’t have the same regulatory framework and adherence to standards that Australia does – also emerging regions are likely to struggle at least initially to product very high quality product with any sort of consistency. Australia has developed a reputation as a reliable supplier; meeting contracted obligations, meeting quality standards, consistency in quality, and our food is safe. Major manufacturers and retailers want certainty and consistency as well as good quality. So, if we can continue to communicate these advantages effectively the Australian industry is well placed as global production grows."
Demand for Australian grown macadamias is very strong, but the Australian Macadamia Society sees a major opportunity in the manufacturing sector.
"Demand has outstripped supply over the last 5 years," Ms Ziehlke said. "In the next 5 years supply is expected to increase significantly which is why we have changed our approach in terms of our marketing strategy. We plan to drive increased consumption through an Innovation Initiative targeting the food manufacturing sector. Macadamias are under-used (relative to other tree nuts) in this sector so we see it as a big opportunity and one that will deliver greater stability, and one where Australia’s competitive advantages can be leveraged."
The SIP hopes to attract $74.5million, with an investment of $24.2million over the next five years, and aims to increase market demand for Australian macadamias, improve production systems, increase productivity to 5 tonnes nut-in-shell per hectare and improve capacity to lead and support current and future industry needs.
AMS CEO Jolyon Burnett says a number of key strategies are now in place to increase yield and efficiency, providing growers and the industry with every opportunity to achieve the targets.
“If we can reach 5T per hectare by 2021 it will be a tremendous achievement and a very positive result for our world-leading industry,” Mr Burnett said. “Having an industry that can identify and implement change is very important, and the plan will need to be reviewed and updated as we progress closer to the targets.”
Ms Ziehlke adds that macadamias have become an interesting choice for food manufacturers and retailers due to the interest of the public to try new healthy products.
"From a consumer perspective, the things that really resonate are the unique and delicious taste and texture of the product, that macadamias are healthy, and that they are special," she said. "They also love the story about where they come from, and the clean and green position, the lifestyle we live and the beauty of the country are all attributes that come together to make Australian macadamias something truly special."
One of the major advantages of the plan is increased collaboration with other growing markets.
"From a marketing perspective, international collaboration is critical in terms of collecting and sharing data. We’ve been working with the other origins on this since 2012 and the data we collect on production, sales, contracts and inventory is invaluable," Ms Ziehlke said. "In the future we will work with Hort Innovation and industry to collect more production data and other data as we identify what is needed. Data has helped our industry make good decisions and will continue to be the base of our future decisions."
But she warns against dangers that come with global growth, and that the industry must be careful to maintain its strict standards.
"One of the risks with increasing production from emerging origins is that we don’t want poor quality macadamias on the market," Ms Ziehlke said. "This would detract from all macadamias because consumers don’t necessarily recognise origin (it is often not communicated on packaging). If we can provide advice that will help ensure that all macadamias are good quality that would be a good thing."
Hort Innovation says Australia currently exports macadamias to 40 countries, with more opportunity for export growth. Major export markets include Europe, Japan and the United States. Growing markets include Taiwan and Korea, while China is a major Nut in Shell market.
“With successful Free Trade Agreements in place, we expect to see strong growth in China, Japan and Korea," Trade General Manager Michael Rogers said. "Key research and development priorities for macadamias include more programs to enhance the industry’s skills and capacity, developing a more complete world production forecast to help industry target the right markets and investment into facilitating and supporting connections and engagement with overseas macadamia industries.”
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