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Bega Cheese peanuts are big business in Bundaberg

Bega peanuts
Dean Cayley at his Alloway peanut farm.

Peanuts are big business for Bega Cheese and the company is working with Bundaberg farmers to quadruple the local harvest in the next three to five years.

Australian-grown peanuts are in extremely short supply, so Bega is keen to work with local farmers to help increase production.

Bega Company's Peanut Company of Australia Grower Liaison and Logistics Manager Tobin Cherry said the Bundaberg Region was already providing a large number of peanuts and was considered a growth area for the company.

He said Peanut Company of Australia, which was looking to expand to keep up with demand from Australian consumers, turned the crop grown in Bundaberg into Bega’s much-loved peanut butter range.

“We are the biggest peanut grower in Australia,” Tobin said.

“We still can’t produce enough to meet the Australian demand and Bundaberg is definitely a growth region for us.”

Tobin said in the Bundaberg Region there was 1200 hectares of peanuts grown and it was expected to more than double next year to 2500 hectares.

He said the goal was to quadruple production to 5000 hectares in the next three to five years.

“We are seeing five to five-and-a-half tonnes of peanuts to the hectare, and even up to seven tonnes, which is a really good result,” Tobin said.

“It was a difficult start to the year with minimal-to-nil rainfall, growers were struggling to keep the crops alive, but then with the January rainfall and the hard work the local growers had put in prior to Christmas, it started to pay dividends.”

Tobin said the legume crop was perfect as a rotational crop for both sugarcane and sweet potatoes, and he was pleased to see more farmers in the Bundaberg Region step towards growing peanuts.

“In rotation with sugarcane, legume crops are exceptional in increasing yields and production,” Tobin said.

“We see there is a good opportunity for us to grow more products in the region – we’re a good fit with sugarcane crops as peanuts have the need for the same soil types and water quality, and there are rotational benefits to peanuts.”

Cane farmers use peanuts as rotational crop

Bega peanuts
Dean Cayley ready to harvest his peanuts at his Alloway farm

Dean Cayley is a third-generation sugar cane farmer, his grandfather planted peanuts as his first crop in 1948 in the Bundaberg Region before focusing on sugar cane.

Dean moved to growing peanuts as a rotational crop more than 10 years ago and said they were a good cash crop that helped maintain an income when sugar prices dropped.

“This year we have had 32ha of peanuts and we’ve now finished the season with really good results – especially with the Alloway Peanut,” he said.

Dean said most peanuts were named after Australian prime ministers, such as Holt and Menzies, but the Alloway Peanut was named after the Bundaberg area and had been around for about two years showing fantastic results.

“We want the jumbo peanuts, that produce more tonnes per hectare, and the Alloway is looking good for this,” he said.

Dean said the other important factor when it came to using peanuts as a rotational crop was that it allowed farmers to cut back on the use of fertilisers.

“Since we moved to growing peanuts on rotation we’ve noticed the soil condition has improved and with the first crop of sugar cane, we are able to cut back on the use of fertiliser,” Dean said.

“We cut it back by about 250 kilos per hectare, as peanuts produce a natural nitrogen, so we are able to reduce the use of fertiliser.”

Dean said most of the peanuts grown in the Bundaberg Region were used in Bega Peanut Butter or in the confectionery lines, such as Picky Picky Peanuts, which were flavoured nuts.

He encouraged more farmers to look at using the peanuts as a rotation, saying one day he hoped there would be enough peanuts grown in the Bundaberg Region to allow Bega to say that its peanut butter was 100% Australia made.

Tobin said any farmers wanting more information about using peanuts as a rotational crop could contact PCA on 4162 6311 or email peanuts@pca.com.au.