The Australian macadamia industry is set to reap the benefits of the unfortunate Korean Airlines nut saga, with the resulting increased demand for Australian macadamias great news for our 650 growers.
The airline's vice president of cabin service and daughter of the company's chairman Cho Hyun-ah, ordered a flight attendant off a December 5 flight from New York after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate. She later resigned amidst an international furore.
Australian Macadamia Society (AMS) CEO Jolyon Burnett said the reported surge in Korean demand for macadamias following the incident (the New York Times is reporting that macadamias are now a household name in South Korea, sales are booming and macadamias now represent 50% - previously 5% - of total nut sales) is now flowing on to the Australian market.
Mr. Burnett said that local processing companies are reporting an increased number of enquiries from Korea and the AMS has received increased international media interest. (Already, 88% of macadamia imports to Korea are from Australia, the birthplace of the macadamia nut).
"The story raised the awareness of macadamia nuts, increased demand in Korea, and we're predicting this will lead to a significant increase in sales in the coming months," said Mr. Burnett, adding that a 2011 AMS consumer research study in Korea found that only 36.82 % of consumers were 'aware' of macadamias.
"Wholesalers in Korea are saying business is skyrocketing, and orders are being brought forward. This has helped to take macadamia nuts 'mainstream'."
Mr. Burnett said before the incident macadamias were already on their way to becoming a firm favourite in Korea, with total imports increasing by 215 per cent over the last five years and exports reaching 253 tonnes with a value of $3.8 million per annum.
"And of course macadamias should be served on a silver platter," said Mr. Burnett. "Australian macadamias are the world's finest nut, an exquisite tasting, premium product that deserve all the attention in the world."
Mr. Burnett added that the timing couldn't be better, with the incident occurring the same week the Korean Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into play. The FTA will see the tariff on macadamia exports into Korea reduced from 30 to 18 percent by 1 Jan 2015 and tariff-free by January 2018.
"With the new tariff in place, the AMS expected the Korean market to grow over the next decade with the potential to reach a similar consumption per head to the Japanese market. This would result in a market of about 2500 tonnes of kernel per annum with a value of about $41 million. We expect this target will be reached even sooner, as a result of the airline incident," said Mr. Burnett.
Mr. Burnett said the latest surge in demand from Korea capped off a positive year for the Australian macadamia industry. A higher than expected final crop, combined with FTA announcements for China and Japan added fuel to the already booming Asian demand for Australian macadamias.
Australia is the birthplace of macadamias and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the delicious nut's commercial production dating back to 1974. From humble beginnings, the industry is now worth $150million, and has over 650 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 around the world. Macadamias' reputation and appeal have been built on their unique creamy, buttery flavour and texture, which is a source of great pride amongst those involved in the industry.
For further information contact: Jolyon Burnett - CEO Australian Macadamia Society
M: 0416 224 935 | P: 1800 262 426 (Aust) | +61 2 6622 4933