At the International Nut and Dried Fruit Congress (INC) in Melbourne, Australia, in May, it emerged that SA macadamia processors will be exporting more than 55% of the country’s total crop to Asia, compared with 30% last season.
Farmers and processors have also benefited from a significant increase in export prices: from R87/kg kernel in 2010 to R170/kg kernel in 2014.
The current costs associated with de-kernelling make dry-nut-in-shell (DNIS) more lucrative. This market is so profitable that the Valley Macadamia group exports 80% of its nuts in-shell, while only 20% is cracked.
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Farmers can receive between R46/kg and R48/kg DNIS from Chinese buyers, according to Johan Smuts, a macadamia farmer from Alkmaar, Mpumalanga. He produces around 4t/ha from 49ha, while the industry average is about 2t/ha, and like many other macadamia farmers he’s smiling.
Some 60% of all commercial macadamia orchards in SA are of the Beaumont variety, because it produces nuts of a consistent quality.
Pieter du Preez, procurement officer at Valley Macadamias, says phytosanitary requirements for exporting DNIS are not nearly as stringent as with other fruit, or even nuts out of the shell.
Johan and Illsa Smuts. Illsa is in charge of quality control at Sabie Valley Macadamia’s Alkmaar factory.
The macadamias go through several processing stages: from drying to between 1% and 2% moisture content, to sorting and packaging, all the time being protected by a tough shell. The shell makes up about 60% of the total weight of the nut.
Johan began phasing out orchards and replacing them with macadamias 12 years ago, and has been a commercial macadamia farmer for eight years. He established another 17ha of macadamias recently at a cost of around R87 000/ha. These trees will become productive in five to seven years.
Macadamia farmers have to be patient, but the wait is worth it, says Johan.
* Extracted from ‘Nuts about nuts’ in FW, 22 August 2014, by Niel Saayman.
This article was originally published in the 10 January 2014 issue of Farmer’s Weekly.