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Completed project

Benchmarking the macadamia industry 2015-18 (MC15005)

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Publication date: Monday, December 10, 2018

What was it all about?

This investment supplied on-farm benchmarking information for the macadamia industry. The collection of data on planting, production, costs, pest and weather problems and quality allowed analysis of trends across the industry, allowing growers and other stakeholders to make informed decisions that can improve farm productivity and profitability.

Industry reports were produced each season, including analysis of seasonal findings and long-term trends across the whole sample. They also included analysis of segments of the sample, such as top performing farms (sustained high yield per hectare over 4 or more years), percentiles and regions. Variation in seasonal productivity and quality was also analysed by farm size, tree age, region, use of irrigation, management structure and planting density.

Key findings

Participation by growers remained high throughout the study, with an average of 57 per cent of industry (by production) represented in the benchmark sample. 121 farms participated in benchmarking for a total of eight years and 217 farms have participated for five or more years.

Key findings from the project include:

  • There is high variability in productivity between farms, and between seasons for any given farm
  • Examples of sustained high orchard productivity were identified in all production regions, and across all farm size and tree age groups
  • Average long-term productivity per hectare was highest in the Central Queensland region
  • Average productivity for the top 25 per cent of farms (based on sustained productivity over 4+ years) was four times higher than the remainder of the sample
  • Insect damage is the leading cause of factory reject. Highest average levels were recorded in the NSW Mid-North Coast region.
  • The incidence of insect damage among small farms (< 10 Ha) is higher than all other farm size groups
  • Lack of available moisture caused high immaturity in some seasons, particularly in South East Queensland
  • Average internal discolouration rejects are higher in Bundaberg compared with other regions
  • Average production costs per hectare and per tonne have increased over the last five seasons, particularly labour and crop nutrition costs
  • Average long-term saleable and reject kernel recovery was highest in the NSW Mid-North Coast region.

The data collected by the team was well received by growers. All reported that the individual farm reports and the industry reports were useful or very useful, and more than three quarters of surveyed growers (77%) reported changing or planning production practices as a result of the project. 

In the final year of the project, the Macadamia industry benchmark report 2009-2017, based on data from 272 bearing farms found:

  • An average farm size of 36 hectares
  • An average tree age of 18 years
  • Average productivity of 2.55 nut-in-shell tonnes per hectare – just higher than the 2.51 tonnes long-term average for the eight seasons from 2009 to 2016
  • Average saleable kernels of 0.84 tonnes per hectare
  • Average saleable kernel recovery of 34.7 per cent.


Participating farms received an annual farm report which ranked the performance of their business against averages of comparable farms, which they found very useful.

Throughout the project, the team organised annual meetings of benchmarking participants that allowed discussions of seasonal findings and trends. Findings were also presented at industry conferences, MacGroup meetings, consultant meetings and processor field days, as well as in articles in the Australian Macadamia Society News Bulletins.

The team produced six videos to demonstrate compelling examples of high productivity or innovation.

In addition to macadamia growers, benchmark findings have been widely used by investors, processors, consultants, researchers, including other Hort Innovation projects, and accountants. Benchmark data has informed processes and decision-making in financial institutions and other authorities such as the Australian Taxation Office and Plant Health Australia. Trend data has also provided objective metrics for industry strategic planning and RD&E investment.


 Download the benchmarking reports from the three years of the project:

Watch now! The research team produced a series of short videos featuring case studies on:

Read about the findings from the study in the levy-funded industry News Bulletin: