One of Australia’s largest almond processors has tipped almond plantings in the Riverina to more than double within the next five years.
AlmondCo has built a $25 million shelling and hulling plant on the outskirts of Griffith, which will be officially opened this week.
Managing director Brenton Woolston said there were already 1.8 million almond trees in the region.
“From next to nothing less than 15 years ago, almonds in the New South Wales Riverina now represent 15 per cent of the national plantings and we expect that percentage to sharply increase in the future,” he said.
The processing facility was nine years in the making and took 13 months to build.
Savings for growers
Lake Wyangan almond grower Dennis Dinicola said having a processing plant nearby would allow growers to save a significant amount of money on transport costs.
“We were travelling seven hours in a truck to get to Renmark and now that’s gone,” he said.
“We’ll save in excess of $100,000 a year”.
He thought more growers would look at almonds now there was a processing plant in the Riverina.
“I think there will be more growers as they opt out of other crops,” he said.
“Prices have been good and it’s encouraged a lot of new growers to come into production and there’s some big acres going in.”
Dennis Dinicola said water availability was not a concern for most growers in the Riverina.
“Most of the almonds that have been planted in this area are on a sandy loam clay base and they don’t use as much water as they do in South Australia,” he said.
“We’re using about 10 to 11 megalitres a hectare which we’re happy with.
“In a drought water is always a concern but we’ll have to worry about that when we get to it.”
Mr Woolston said there was plenty of scope for the almond industry to grow in the Riverina and said there was no concern about over supply.
“There’s no real push from industry to expand the industry; it’s just the organic growth that’s happening,” he said.
“We’ve seen existing growers make more commitment to almonds and there’s also scope for new growers.
“It’s very labour efficient, gives a good return on water use and land use and it’s a globally competitive crop with 75 to 80 per cent export so we’re not relying on domestic markets.”
Mr Woolston said AlmondCo planned to roll out stage two of the development from 2020, which was expected to cost another $5–$10 million.
“It’s essentially about plugging in extra equipment to get us to another level of capacity,” he said.
“For AlmondCo there’s about 5,000 tonnes of almond kernels that come out of the Riverina.
“The capacity of the plant is at least triple what we’re already doing.”