The Almond Board of Australia has had its wish fulfilled, gaining a Centre of Excellence in South Australia’s Riverland region after pushing for a research facility in the state since 2013.
The Almond Board and the South Australian government are contributing A$4m each to the new centre at the Loxton Research Centre, which will have a strong focus on research and development to build export markets for the A$160m almond industry.
As the world’s second largest producer of almonds, and with almonds now one of Australia’s fastest growing horticulture exports, South Australian agriculture minster Leon Bignall has voiced the needs for innovation to target growing markets in Asia.
“It’s a growing world out there in terms of the appetite for really good high-quality nuts,” Bignall told the ABC. “We need to be innovative, we need to make sure that we can grow the almonds in the most competitive, water-efficient way possible, and we also need to make sure we’re growing what the markets want in India and China and New Zealand and Asia.”
Almond Board of Australia chairman Ross Skinner said the Almond Centre of Excellence would allow industry research to catch up with the rapid growth of the industry.
“One of the things that has happened with the industry is that we’ve transplanted a lot of the technology from California straight to Australia, but the different climate and the different soil types that are experience here as opposed to in California does mean the industry has got some risks that aren’t faced by the Californian industry," said Skinner.
As well as the South Australian research facility, a 25ha research facility and experimental orchard in Mildura has been announced by the Victorian government, to focus on improving the quality of almond crops, minimising pest and diseases, and boosting export standards. As the state's biggest horticultural exports in 2013/14, the Victorian government said export volumes of almonds have doubled in recent years.
“With nearly 70 per cent of Australia’s almonds grown in Victoria and over 70 per cent of the crop now being exported, the focus on issues that make our almonds even more competitive in overseas markets is a key to ensuring the industry continues to prosper,” said Neale Bennett, chair of the Almond Board of Australia.
“A pleasing aspect of the negotiations is the cooperation between ministers and department staff in Victoria and South Australia to ensure an increased capability for the industry is supported.”