Almonds — it’s a blossoming market — and with the Australian crop expected to be the largest on record, South Australian producers are investing millions into the industry.
This year’s almond harvest across Australia is now estimated to be just under 87,00 tonnes, that’s almost 5,000 tonnes up on last year; with South Australia accounting for 19 per cent of the total national plantings.
Riverland producers are welcoming the growing market with a new $6 million cracking and hulling plant, operated by Costa Bros in Swan Reach.
One of the company’s three directors, Phillip Costa, said new plant opened to meet the pressures of the growing industry.
“Even though there are all these acres going in there wasn’t a lot of production to be able to meet demands”, Mr Costa said.
Predictions show the new facility is expected to increase the region’s hulling and shelling capacity from 8,000 to 22,000 tonnes a year.
“The site will be running for 20 hours a day and also takes into account for the future plantings going in, so there’s another 1,000 acres of new plantings going in over about five stages … about 2021 is when we’re looking at getting to the last stage,” Mr Costa said.
“We moved up here in 2007 and that was our toe in the water for the area and the people have been super supportive of us.
“As much as it’s [the facility] here for us, it’s here for the local people too, so we’re really appreciative of them.”
The directors of the Swan Reach Cracking and Hulling plant said everything on the site was fully recyclable.
The hulling and shelling plant is projected to produce up to 16,500 tonnes of almond hull and shell to be used in the animal feed industry, with the company looking at expanding to solar power energy sources.
Costa Bros received a $1.85 million Regional Development and Innovation Fund grant to build the facility, which is expected to create more than 30 new full-time positions.
Cracking plant to benefit local producers
Nearby Riverland almond growers hope they too can capitalise on the booming industry.
The general manager of Walker Flat Almonds Peter Cavallaro said he was very supportive of the new plant.
He said his company would put about 300 tonnes of almonds through the Swan Reach plant over the season.
“A few of the other employers [are] closing down, with this coming into the area it’s really had a positive effect on those local jobs that were lost,” Mr Cavallaro said.
“The impact on our business is going to be positive as we don’t have to travel as far.”
Branching into international markets
Mr Cavallaro said he was expanding his orchard with new varieties and hoping to export them overseas.
“I think it’s growing at a very steady rate and it’s a positive rate because we’re in a situation where we’re able to get rid of what we do grow in the industry,” he said.
Mr Cavallaro said the almond board had brought out five new varieties of almonds, but most of the excitement was around the new Vella variety.
He said researchers at the University of Adelaide had spent 20 years developing the hard-shelled, self-fertilising Vella.
“With these new varieties, the opportunity is there that we can actually export a variety, not necessarily just the nut.
“We can actually export the variety like we get in from America, most of the varieties that we grow are American varieties, but now we can actually look at if they’re interested in our varieties.”
source ABC rural