GROWERS: Chris and Pete Russo are Bundy region peanut growers who are looking forward to the opportunities happening in the industry.
GROWERS: Chris and Pete Russo are Bundy region peanut growers who are looking forward to the opportunities happening in the industry.

Bega director meets with local growers

BUNDABERG and Childers peanut growers have had the opportunity to meet and talk shop with Bega Cheese Limited bosses.

Director Max Roberts, CEO Paul Van Heerwaarden, operations manager for Bega Foods Peter Watt and Peanut Company of Australia supply manager Lionel Wiek were at Brothers Sports Club yesterday to delve into their vision for the peanut industry.

The Bega executives were met by about 33 farmers in Childers and a dozen in Bundaberg.

Since Bega's acquisition of PCA in January, Mr Roberts said they had been focused on a variety of elements, in particular their relationship with the suppliers - our farmers.

With hopes to grow their Australian supply of peanuts to 25,000 tonnes in the next two years, Bega has developed a package for the farmers to encourage their production of peanuts.

One of the elements highlighted in the package for farmers is the payment terms, which will see farmers' stock paid for on the basis of 100 per cent of proceeds, 30 days after delivery.

Mr Roberts said this was particularly of interest as peanuts were "a cash crop" and farmers won't have to wait months for their return.

Bundaberg peanut farmer Dean Cayley said the opportunity to speak with the bosses of Bega was beneficial.

"It's very encouraging to see them and what they plan to do with the company," he said.

"Like they said, without the growers, there's no business.

"The region has done really well this year, the harvest is pretty much over and we'll hopefully get the results in a couple of weeks."

While this year was his first season back growing peanuts, Mr Cayley said he will definitely be growing them again next season.

The push for more peanuts rests with the growing need for provenance among consumers.

Mr Roberts said on the Bega peanut butter range they want it to read 100 per cent Australian peanuts.

But there currently isn't the supply to make that happen.

Mr Roberts said a breeding program would encourage an increase in peanut variety and potential growth into the peanut snacking range. He said the future of peanuts lied with a scholarship program to support young farmers.

Mikayla Haupt