The Role of the Australian Macadamia Society
The history of the Australian Macadamia Society, its activities and functions.
The Role of the Australian Macadamia Society
This is to give you a bit of a view of the AMS. The key part here is that it was formed to promote and coordinate all aspects of the industry. To encourage free exchange of ideas and information, and to foster good will among our members. One unique part about the AMS is that it covered a relatively small geographical area up until this visit. This is our first visit to WA, as far as the AMS is concerned.
It was pretty easy to cover that small growing area, from Atherton to Coff's Harbour. We only have the one branch. There was no reason to have state branches. That, in itself, is the reason for the success of the AMS, we haven't got many little sub societies of branches all over Australia. I think that even with WA, we would certainly like you to be part of the AMS, and form grower groups, or whatever is required in WA. We would like to work with you so that we have just one functional body.
It was originally formed back in 1974, with 17 growers. Today, it accounts for approximately 750 financial members. Once again, the growth relates to the plantings that have gone in. It includes 30 overseas members, and we have approximately 20 members from WA as well. It is estimated that 85% of Australian growers are members, and that those members represent 90% of Australia's production, so we do represent a fair proportion of the Australian industry.
Once again, the strength of the AMS is mainly growers and processors, but there is also all our researchers, our members, through to nursery owners, consultants and a wide range of auxiliary services. Machinery dealers, insurance brokers, etc., all members of the AMS.
Our president is elected on a one-year term, a vice president, secretary and treasurer who are elected from the board. There are nine board members including the above, and they are elected for a three-year term.
We have a research and development committee. This committee reports to the board and is responsible for the R & D program. At present, annual spending on that is approximately $1.5 million. This is in matched funds. I will get into levies a bit later on. We receive about $750,000 in levies and that is matched dollar for dollar by the government.
Then we have our promotions committee, which also reports to the board. Presently, promotions funding for the year is about $1 million.Unfortunately, promotion funding is not matched by the government, so it is straight dollars out of our pocket.
We have an office which has grown substantially in size over the last five or six years. It is situated in Lismore. We have a full-time executive officer, or have done for the last two and a half years. An industry development manager, which is Kim Jones. Kim is funded out of our R & D levies. Every dollar that is paid from the levy is matched by the government, and that goes toward paying his salary.
We have a full-time admin officer and also an assistant. The assistant helps Kim Jones, in industry development as well as the rest of the office work. So we have a fair few staff.
We have a web site. It has just been upgraded in the last six months, and has a very, very large amount of information. We have a bi-monthly newsletter. Members receive that six times a year. There is an enormous amount of information in them, from industry affairs, final reports, progress reports, R & D, updates on our promotions and marketing, and just general discussion areas.
As well as that, we provide general information to the public and also to growers. If people are interested in growing macadamias, we have a hand-out kit. There are education kits. We coordinate industry issues: kernel assessment workshops are one of our latest attempts to get all the processors together so that we have a common accredited kernel assessment, so when they analyse your payment, we are all comparing apples with apples.
We have a code of standard orchard practices. Members receive that free. It is really a Bible to what you should or should not be doing on your farm. We introduced quality standards, and we are currently working on occupational health and safety issues in a similar type bulletin. There is also promotional material, recipes; examples of these are down on the table in the back. Style sheets, recipe leaflets, stickers, etc.
We also represent growers on industry issues, if there are any concerns in local growing areas. We go to the government on behalf of the growers. There is the direct mailing information in relationship to field days. We have two field days a year. We also have Mac groups. An example is what we held down in Margaret River a few days ago: an endeavor to get Kim Jones out into the field. We have about 10 over the growing areas of the eastern states. We just have informal gathering, probably about 10 to 15 people turn out in each area, and we bring them up to date about any research projects, we see what is happening in their areas as far as the crop goes, if there are any major problems as far as insects, pests. We hold three of these a year, so that is actually 30 meetings that Kim has conducted with groups of small growers all over the growing area. We actually conducted one down in Margaret River as our first attempt in WA.
The AMS logo was registered several years ago. The criteria for the use of this logo is that it must be an Australian product, the factory that produces the product must be ISO credited, and it must fulfill the AMS quality standards. We are trying to identify a name out there. If you see that logo on a packet, we are trying to guarantee that it is quality product in that packet. Hopefully, the factory that supplied that product would receive a higher price.
In the formalities, we have two general meetings a year, usually coinciding with field days. They are obviously always on the east coast, but if anyone is seriously interested in growing macas, it would be a good time to come over coinciding with one of our field days. We have an annual general meeting and conference. This usually goes for three days. We have a full day going over our promotion program and another day on our technical program and then we have the formalities of the AGM.
Back in 1983 there was a voluntary levy introduced where growers were asked to pay 5 cents a tree. Obviously, because it was voluntary, there was only a small proportion of the money ever came in. In September of 1991, a statutory levy was introduced, so it is basically a tax and there is no way out of here. In those days it was based on 2 cents nut in shell, and that was split between our research and promotion program. Today it is 7 cents total. Some growers are complaining because the proportion of 2 cents out of $4 ten years ago was a very small percentage, but 7 cents now out of $2.20 is a much higher percentage. The question was asked about marketing and promoting, and as you will see with some of our research projects, we certainly need the funds. We are gradually scaling down the research side. The current research component of it is only 2.3 cents of that 7 cent levy. Several years ago, that was 4.3 cents. We want to maintain our R & D spending around the $1.5 million. We don't believe we can manage the funding much higher than that. That 2.3 cents, as I said before, is matched by the government.
The promotions side is now up as high as 4.5 cents. Multiply that 4.5 cents by 30,000 tonne to get our promotion funds. On top of that, we have had running for several years now a residue survey. That takes 0.2 cent to regularly test the chemicals, etc., in kernel. Since then, we have actually had a clean bill of health.
To finish, we are affiliated with Horticulture Australia, which is a sponsor of this conference. That is the new company that was formed to replace the HRDC and the AHC which were responsible for our research and promotion. We joined the Australian Nut Industry Council three years ago. The International Tree Nut Council, Horticulture Australia, that is sort of a political arm of National Farmers, and the Plant Health Council. Wesfarmers are involved with the Society in such a way that if the premium on members' insurance is over $1000, they actually can receive a rebate through the AMS.
The key part of the AMS is really that we promote and coordinate all aspects of the industry. It is not just a grower's organisation, or a processor's organisation: it is all aspects of the industry. I do believe that is the reason for the success of the AMS.