Macadamia nursery turns to Myanmar refugees to graft a million trees in a decade

Macadamia nursery turns to Myanmar refugees to graft a million trees in a decade

Macadamia nursery turns to Myanmar refugees to graft a million trees in a decade

Updated 21 November 2017, 15:15 AEDT

The grafting and planting of a million trees in ten years is the ambitious plan of one of Queensland's newest macadamia plantations.

The nursery working to complete this bold task is Hinkler Park Plantation, situated just outside Emerald.

Manager Ian Waters says the company had to source labour both locally and from overseas, including some refugees, to make this dream a reality.

"It takes two years to grow a tree from seed through to planting out, so there's a fair bit of work involved," he says.

"We've got 360,000 trees in our nursery and we've just finished grafting 120,000 of those trees."

It is a painstaking process that needs skilled workers to complete correctly.

"Hinkler Park also owns a couple of thousand acres of orchards in South Africa and they've got a production orchard over there," Mr Waters said.

"They've trained these people up and these South African ladies are very, very good at grafting.

"We have about 16 people here working every day … and they grafted 105,000 trees in five months.

"They're averaging about 300 trees per day (each) … and they've trained up some of our local people.

"We've had a very good result with more than 90 per cent take rate (of the grafts), which is excellent.

"We've also employed some refugees (from Myanmar and elsewhere), they're doing a very good job."

The Hinkler Park Plantation manager said the main issue is finding and training staff with the patience for the job of grafting.

The process of producing trees for the orchard includes growing different varieties of macadamia plants from seed and then grafting them together to produce a tree which will be strong and grow the right type of nuts in the best season.

"The company has 900 acres that they're developing at the moment with irrigation," Mr Waters said.

"The aim is to plant a million trees in the next ten years."

The company is confident current demand will continue as the hundreds of thousands of trees they are producing begin yielding tonnes of nuts.

"In the last couple of years all the dots have lined up … we've had a very good crop with good quality, we got a very good price and the demand is very high, so it's put a smile on everyone's face," he said.

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