Coast kelp cracks open Chinese export market
A COAST kelp company is on the cusp of cracking the riches of the Chinese market.
Doug and Kaye McGaughey's Kunda Park-based Natrakelp company welcomed a delegation from China's Zhejiang New Vision on Friday.
Two years ago the family introduced their product to Zhejiang AMP International, which is a subsidiary of a US $6 billion trading company which distributes agricultural products through China.
After being trialled against three other liquid seaweed fertilisers, including local and international products, Natrakelp was selected as the product to be distributed.
Doug and Kaye's son, Tim, manager of the Kunda Park business, said the numbers being talked about for export were exciting.
"If they go full-on they're talking about a container a week," he said.
Each batch of the 95 per cent organic fertiliser takes three weeks to produce using a cold bacterial fermentation process.
Tim said his parents started up at Kunda Park in 1987 as a chemical fertiliser company using just 5 per cent seaweed, but had gradually shifted to 95 per cent.
He said they sold directly to growers and these days boasted some huge commercial clients including Australia's largest carrot growers and Penfolds wines.
"It's a plant stimulant," Tim said.
He estimated on an average year they produced between 300,000-500,000 litres of fertiliser, but that could double if their Chinese exports took off.
The business is run by Doug and Kaye, Tim, his brother Matthew and sister Catherine Stibbard.
They employ about 10 people and have salespeople around the country.
At present Natrakelp exports to China, Malaysia, Singapore, Ecuador, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan.
Tim said they were "constantly" getting inquiries from different countries.
Banking representatives at Friday's welcome ceremony said at present Natrakelp was only active in about 10 per cent of the Chinese market and there was massive room for expansion.
Representatives from the council, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Queensland Exports were at Friday's ceremony.
Tim said they planned to take the delegation to Sydney for some sightseeing, before heading down to South Australia to show them a 1000-acre farm which he expected would surprise them, as they were used to small farms in China.
Ninderry MP Dan Purdie said their success story was one to be celebrated.
"This is a wonderful acknowledgement of what can be achieved through years of hard work, innovation and commitment," Mr Purdie said.
Kaye said the delegation's arrival had been a proud moment for their business as they were able to highlight their capacity to effectively double capacity overnight.