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Buoyant prices as a result of empty & eager markets
South African macadamia estimate adjusted downwards
The macadamia harvest estimate for 2017 has just been adjusted slightly downwards, to 41 430t, says Barry Christie, operations manager for macadamias at Subtrop. This reflects a lower harvest, particularly in Limpopo Province where the effect of the drought lingers.
“It’s not only the drought but also the heat during blossoming and fruit set. We saw a lot of fruit drop,” says Johan Vos, general manager of Royal Macadamia in Levubu, where macadamias were first planted commercially in South Africa. It is expected that the harvest in Limpopo will be even lower than last year.
While the harvest in Limpopo was delayed by as much as a month, in Mpumalanga it started slightly earlier than usual, reports Theunis Smit, horticulturalist at Mayo Macs, and the harvest is already peaking whereas normally the peak runs over May/June. The harvesting period could be shorter overall this year, placing pressure on drying facilities.
It is expected that Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal’s production will be on par with or slightly up from last year. Ironically, heavy autumnal rains in KwaZulu-Natal this past weekend could hamper the harvest of macadamias, which fall to the ground. Most new plantings (of which more than 70% are in Mpumalanga) consist of the Beaumont cultivar which was particularly affected by the drought last year; during its blossoming there were heat waves.
“Both last year and this year is very disappointing because of the drought. However, it looks really positive for next season,” says Alex Whyte, marketing manager at Green Nut Farms Co which has processing plants in all three macadamia-producing provinces where the nuts of more than 250 growers are received.
"Record highs" in prices
The good news is that with no carry-over stock from last year and strong demand, prices received are really good. “We’re seeing record highs – I don’t think the prices (in US Dollars, in Rand terms it was a bit higher last year) have ever been this high. There is exceptional demand from China coupled with growing markets in the US and Europe. Also, the Australian harvest was delayed somewhat by Cyclone Debbie,” says Alex Whyte.
Vos of Royal Macadamia concurs that prices are good this year, better than last year, but he remembers situations in prior years when macadamias were priced out of the market. “We have seen in the past that when macadamia nut prices rise out of proportion to other nuts, especially where macadamias are part of a nut basket of different nuts, then demand for macadamias drops and it takes some time to win back that market share. However, at the moment we’re still seeing good demand.” Also, he continues, low available volumes complicate the marketing of nuts and under such circumstances it is difficult to make firm commitments to buyers on quantities.
Last year Royal Macadamia sent about half of its nuts (all shelled) to the USA, followed by marketing in the EU and UK (45%) and Japan (4%) and the balance to Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, but this year it will send around 10% in-shell to the lucrative Chinese market. This doesn’t mean turning away from their traditional markets. “We built up our markets in the USA and Europe over twenty years, something we won’t just give up for new markets.”
Vos expresses a general sentiment in the macadamia industry: that the longterm market for South African macadamias will be the nut kernel market.
Whyte of Green Nut Farms agrees on the necessity to spread nuts over many markets. The company also shells most of its production, for export to North America, the EU, Southeast Asia, South America and the Middle East. “Per capita nut consumption in the Middle East is growing nicely. There’s an upward trend as stock is bought in preparation of Ramadan, absolutely, but day-to-day consumption is on the increase,” says Whyte. Their focus is on product development, for instance the replacement of almonds or pistachios with macadamias as a food ingredient.
The percentage of unsound kernels is lower than last year, in part because the damage done by stink bugs is still muted compared to previous years.
For more information:
Tel: +27 15 307 3677
Tel: +27 15 151 0077
Tel: +27 84 919 5717
Green Nut Farms Co
Tel: +27 72 031 1838
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