Works have begun at Lawrence to create what is anticipated to become Australia’s largest single macadamia farm.
The 1400-hectare site off Pringle’s Way is planned to be home to up to 900 hectares of macadamia trees, producing an estimated 6000 tonnes of the nut each year – an annual harvest worth around $35million.
The development is expected to produce around 40 full time equivalent jobs. Proponents plan to invest around $30million in the site.
Large-scale husking, drying and storage facilities are also planned.
The farm is being created by agribusiness development company Managed Growth Australia, and financed by Melbourne-based agricultural property fund manager Arrow Funds.
Managed Growth Australia managing director Tim Bennett said that the site was being prepared to begin planting macadamia trees in January 2019, with the first commercial harvest expected three years after planting.
Mr Bennett said there was a massive unmet international demand for macadamias, and the industry needed to almost double production to satisfy the market. Demand is also expected to grow as markets are explored in India and the Middle East.
Australia is the world’s largest producer of macadamias. Production on the Northern Rivers has been largely around the Lismore area, but in recent years an increasing number of Clarence landholders – including cane farmers – have created small-scale macadamia farms. Bundaberg, on the Queensland coast, is also a major macadamia producing region.
Mr Bennett said the new large-scale Lawrence farm will be producing around 12 per cent of the nation’s macadamias, in a rapidly growing industry.
“One of the reasons we chose this site was the industry is trying to grow its international markets, and if Bundaberg gets hit by a cyclone, that’s very hard to do. This creates some balance to Australia’s production,” Mr Bennett said.
“The Clarence has ideal conditions for growing macadamias, and nearby properties have had some excellent quality produce.”
Broadwater Creek runs through the property, and feeds into The Broadwater. Mr Bennett said he acknowledged the environmental sensitivity of the site, and much care would be taken to prevent any impact on the waterway. He said no water would be taken from the creek, runoff would be captured and reused on the farm, riparian zones would be maintained, and water quality monitored in the creek.
“We’re taking a best-practice approach to managing the environment,” Mr Bennett said.
Clarence mayor Jim Simmons welcomed the development.
“A major farming operation established in the Clarence Valley creates economic activity; it’s going to create produce and money to be spent in the Valley, as well as employment. It’s got a lot going for it, macadamia farming,” Cr Simmons said.
Cr Simmons added he believed the macadamia industry was generally responsible and well administered.