Feral pig threat looms large for macadamia farmers
THE region's macadamia farmers are looking forward to a bumper season this year, but concern is mounting over the threat of feral pigs.
The season has already begun for Wolvi macadamia farmer Nic Emery, with his Stillwater Macadamia Farm's five varieties totalling about 4000 trees.
"We've got a fairly broad variety on our farm, so we've got a big season," Mr Emery said.
"Some trees drop earlier than others."
He said macadamia prices would favour farmers this year, with increased demand in Australian and international markets.
"The prices are probably the best we've seen at farm gate for a long time," he said.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm in the market."
Most of the Mr Emery's produce will be exported to Europe and China through Suncoast Gold distributors in Gympie.
"Everyone's out there trying to pick up every last nut," he said.
He said steady rainfall and increased pollination from bees was setting farmers up for a bumper crop.
"Everyone's looking at an increase on last year, which was a good year as well," he said.
"Most of the farms in this area are dry farms; they don't have irrigation so they rely on the rain.
"We've had rain at the right time."
But Mr Emery said feral pig activity was on the rise, with costly consequences for unlucky farmers.
"Our biggest challenge at the moment is feral pigs," he said.
"It's been increasing nearly every year."
Macadamia harvesting machines gather the nuts from the ground after they fall, leaving orchards vulnerable to pig incursions.
"We basically sweep everything off the orchard floor," Mr Emery said.
The pigs eat the nuts from the ground and dig up the orchard floor, leaving farmers unable to run harvesters.
"Harvesters need a really neat, mowed surface, almost like a lawn in the orchard," Mr Emery said.
"They destroy that surface, and it becomes very difficult to get the harvesting equipment back over it again.
"It's a pretty major problem."
While Mr Emery is only just starting to see pig activity on his farm, he said most farmers already have traps on their property or are hiring hunters.
"Most farms have cameras up, and you can see they do a substantial amount of damage in a night," he said.
"A lot of people have started trying to fence them out, but it's very difficult to achieve that.
"Our farm hadn't had pigs at all, but at the end of last season we started seeing traces of them."