There’s a whole lot more to macadamia nuts than their delicious taste. From the high nutritional value, versatile uses and extensive health benefits, to the lucrative returns and sustainable farming opportunities for local growers, this bountiful little nut continues to have an empowering impact on the South African economy.
Macadamia trees are cultivated in warm tropical and subtropical areas. Although native to Australia, macadamia trees flourish in South Africa’s temperate climate and mineral-rich soil, so much so that South Africa has become the largest producer and exporter of high-quality macadamia nuts. With 19,500 hectares under cultivation (producing over 50,000 tons annually) and almost 4000 hectares of new trees added every year, South Africa looks set to maintain this world-leading position.
This farming booming is mainly fuelled by health trends and the resulting voracious demand for macadamia nuts. When it comes to staying healthy inside and out, macadamia nuts reign supreme as a dietary addition and are considered an essential nutritional component in many diets and recipes.
Macadamia nuts are also incredibly versatile and can be eaten raw, cooked or roasted as snacks, in salads, ice creams, baked goods and casseroles; or used as a ground nut butter-base in stir-fries, curries or marinades. They can be paired with chocolate and biscuits in confections and can give any dessert a delicious, chewy quality. The oil extract of macadamia nuts is also valued and is often used in creams, lotions, makeup, sun care products, ointments, bath oils, and baby care products.
Macadamia nuts are currently South Africa’s most profitable crop and can rake in about R375,000 per hectare given that 95% of the product is exported to China, Europe, Canada and the US. “This industry takes grit, determination and hard work, but you’ll never regret it”, says Alan Sutton, Valley Macadamia Group chairman and macadamia farmer. “We’re seeing a global market growth of 33% per year and an insatiable market makes for exceptional returns.” That said, macadamia farming is a fine science that requires essential elements and expertise throughout the farming cycle.
As industry leaders in the sourcing, processing and supplying of macadamia nuts to global markets, Valley Macadamia is dedicated to the success of its network of trusted growers. As the market grows, the production dynamics change, which is why the group consistently provides market intelligence and sustainable macadamia farming advice to local growers.
It is essential for new farmers to partner with a seasoned processor and exporter committed to quality checks every step of the way, from sorting, grading and drying, to packaging, labelling and export preparation. Strict grading criteria and a quality guarantee will continue to open doors to international markets and will have a positive impact not only on price but the reputation of the South African macadamia industry at large.