Champagne corks are popping across the country as Australians raise a 'roast' to the nation's iconic native nut to celebrate 40 remarkable years of commercial growing in May when the new season begins.
Australia is the birthplace of macadamias and Wednesday 7 May 2014 will mark the 40th anniversary of its commercial production, dating back to when the Australian Macadamia Society, the industry body for growers, was first established in 1974.
Macadamias first evolved on the north east coast of the country more than 60,000 years ago, growing naturally in the Australian rainforest. They were regarded by the Aboriginal people as something very special and were often traded between tribes and used as special ceremonial gifts at inter-tribal corroborees.
While the first plantation was established in the 1880s, it wasn't until the development of successful grafting techniques and the introduction of mechanical processing that commercial production of the tough nut became feasible. Macadamia enthusiast Norm Gerber pioneered the grafting techniques that enabled the development of our commercial industry, and he is often referred to as the founding father of the Australian macadamia industry.
Jolyon Burnett, CEO of the Australian Macadamia Society, said the last 40 years have seen a tremendous growth within the industry with Australia leading the world in production and export, accounting for more than 30 per cent of the world's crop.
"From humble beginnings, we now have around 750 growers who produce around 40,000 tonnes of nuts-in-shell each year, of which 70 per cent is exported to more than 40 countries worldwide - incredibly, the only native Australian crop to be developed and traded internationally as a commercial food product.
"Over the past two decades, planting has expanded five-fold and a third of the six million macadamia trees our growers are cultivating have yet to reach full production so the future is bright," he said.
The industry is currently worth $200 million annually at the factory gate and $320 million retail, employs thousands of people and contributes millions of dollars to regional economies.
"The phenomenal success of our industry is all thanks to our talented growers who are passionate about innovation, quality and sustainability and constantly invest in research and development to produce the best quality, best tasting macadamias from their natural home," he said.
Mr Burnett said indulging in freshly harvested home-grown macadamias is the perfect way for Australians to be part of the anniversary celebrations in May.
"Macadamias' reputation and appeal has been built on their creamy, buttery taste and versatility as a stand-alone snack or as a way of adding taste and texture to dishes, both savoury and sweet," Mr Burnett said.
"Macadamias are loaded with good fats and offer many health and beauty benefits, so devour a handful and raise a 'roast' to a global success story and the hardworking growers that continue to produce the world's finest nut."
Macadamias are predominantly grown in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and southern and central Queensland, with smaller plantings in Western Australia and far north Queensland. Blossoming begins in September with harvest taking place from February to August each year.