Frequently Asked Questions

It is always risky to speculate about future market trends. However, macadamia nuts make up less than 1% of the global tree nut production (this excludes peanuts). In the past few years, there has been very strong growth in nut consumption in China. China remains South Africa’s fastest-growing market for macadamia nuts. China currently consumes about 30% of South African macadamia production. Growth in the Chinese market is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. SAMAC is currently investing funds on scientific research which focus on the health benefits associated with the consumption of macadamia nuts, in collaboration with the Australian Macadamia Society. This would then be incorporated into the consumer awareness marketing strategies of macadamia nuts. Another factor to consider is the fact that macadamia plantings in China are on the increase; nevertheless, it is predicted that there would still be a continuous high demand for macadamia nuts.

Macadamias are a subtropical fruit tree crop that originated in Australia and more importantly is closely related to Protea species that we are so familiar with in South Africa.

This similarity between macadamias and Protea species largely dictate where macadamias can and cannot be cultivated. Macadamia trees are, however, fairly tough trees and have been shown to survive and produce in a range of climatically different areas.

It is well known that better crack outs (kernel as a percentage of dry nut in shell weight) are usually achieved at lower altitude due to the nuts developing thinner shells at lower altitudes, where it is generally warmer. Even at low altitudes, macadamias grown in warmer areas will have thinner shells. Nuts from the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal have thinner shells than nuts from the cooler South Coast. Macadamia plantings in Mpumalanga and Limpopo range between 600 and 1200 m AMSL. It is however probably not the altitude that determines the kernel percentage, but the climatic conditions associated with the altitudes. The higher the humidity, the better, and moderate temperatures in combination with high humidity seem to be ideal. When the plants are under less stress, less energy is used for shell production with resultantly thinner shells. Macadamia trees are susceptible to both heat and frost damage. Young trees are readily killed by frost, whereas older trees usually survive. Frost can still damage flowers and result in lower fruit (nut) set. Temperatures above 35 °C, on the other hand, become too high and reduce photosynthesis. Therefore tropical and subtropical regions are more suitable; however there are areas in highlands that produce macadamia nuts, and the micro climate will play a more vital role in these areas, for instance using micro irrigation as opposed to drip irrigation to increase humidity or planting on the cooler or hotter slopes, etc.

It should be noted that macadamias have also been established in some non-traditional areas and have shown to be economically viable. Before planting macadamias in a new area, it is highly advisable to contact a macadamia specialist to aid you in your decision.

It is important to buy good quality planting stock when establishing an orchard. We suggest that you buy from an Seedling Growers Association of South Africa (SGASA) accredited nursery, which is also a SAMAC Registered Nursery.

Click on the link to find a list of nurseries (https://www.samac.org.za/nurseries).

Avoid trees that are stunted, pot-bound or infested with pests or infected by a disease. To ensure the orchard gets off to a good start, select vigorously growing trees free from nutrient disorders, insect pests and disease with a good healthy root system. Buyers should look closely for:

  • A healthy well-formed root system that is not spiralled or twisted.
  • A root system that has masses of very fine roots throughout the potting mix.
  • A potting mix that is well-drained, friable, and free from waterlogging and hard compacted clods.
  • Healthy, vigorous, well-formed growth with dark green foliage/plant leaves.
  • A minimum of 150 mm of hardened new growth above the graft. This should consist of at least two growth flushes with a strong graft union.
  • Trees that are free from insect pests and diseases.

Many growers produce/propagate their own trees with success, but due to the relatively small quantity of trees, together with the inexperience, it would usually be cheaper to buy trees from a Seedling Growers Association of South Africa (SGASA) accredited nursery. SGASA performs annual audits on these nurseries to ensure that trees are of the highest quality. It is important to keep in mind that although one might be able to produce trees quicker than a nursery with a waiting list, the quality of a tree will determine the “quality of service” in return. Our recommendation is thus to rather wait for good quality trees.

This is a challenging question to answer because we do not have all the answers as not all cultivars perform the same everywhere and under different production practices. SAMAC is currently conducting a cultivar trial where various “old” and newly imported cultivars are evaluated across all production regions. This is unfortunately a long term project, but once this project is completed we will be able to provide more specific information. At this stage, there is a tendency to plant ‘849’, ‘A4’, ‘A16’, ‘816’ and ‘814’. ‘Beaumont’ and ‘Nelmak 2’ are also still widely planted. There is an indication that Nelmak D might perform well at higher altitudes. It is however recommended to do a bit of risk distribution by planting at least two to three cultivars. Cross-pollination is an important factor to consider and in the past, it was recommended to interplant a specific cultivar block with another cultivar every 6th to 8th row (eg in a ‘Beaumont block’ to have every 7th row a ‘816’ row). However the recent trends are towards mechanisation to reduce labour and labour cost, and one of the areas in reducing labour cost is in harvesting using ethapon sprays. Unfortunately, not all cultivars can be sprayed with ethapon and the grower needs to wait for the nuts to drop naturally, for instance, the case of ‘816’. These mixed-cultivar blocks make it difficult or impossible to use ethapon, and recent trends are to plant single-cultivar blocks but to try and obtain some cross-pollination effect from neighbouring blocks. The choice of cultivar thus comes down to choice of farming practices.

Some macadamia cultivars have an upright growth pattern, whereas other cultivars tend to have more lateral growth. The cultivar choice could influence tree spacing. In Mpumalanga, the average planting density is 7.4 m x 4 m. Many growers are moving to lower density plantings, for instance, 9 m x 5 m. Lower density plantings will still require pruning, and perhaps 8 m x 4 m or 8 m x 4.5 m will provide a good balance between pruning intensity and optimal yield per hectare.

Some cultivars such as ‘Beaumont’, ‘A4’,‘A16’, ‘791’ and ‘Nelmak 2’ are considered precocious and sporadic trees could bear nuts from about three years of age. SAMAC has funded and has been involved in several cultivar trials. In year four approximately 0.6 kg – 0.8 kg per tree for ‘Beaumont’ could be achieved. In year five, between 2 kg and 10 kg of nuts (Wet In Shell; WIS) can be expected per tree. In year 8, approximately 16 kg can be expected and maximum yield is perhaps as late as year 13 to 14, yielding as high as 35 kg per tree (WIS). These are rough indicators, but these figures are guaranteed to differ between areas. More details are on the SAMAC website under the member’s section: technical info – orchard establishment.

Grafted trees start bearing fruit as early as 3 to 5 years, depending on the variety. It is recommended that the flowers be picked off untill year 3 to give the tree enough time to establish its roots and build energy before nut production. Some dropping varieties produce reasonably sized crops from year 5 to 7 and continue to increase crop size for the next 15 to 20 years.  BEWARE– seedling trees do not usually produce nuts until 10 to 12 years and sometimes much longer. Seedling trees are generally huge with prickly leaves, nuts are small and need to be picked, kernel recovery is low due to thick shells, oil content is low and sugar content high, attracting pests.

  • Remove the husks (dehusk) preferably within 24 hours of harvesting, particularly if the husks are closed.
  • Dry the dehusked nuts in drying bins with ambient air or hang in onion bags in a dry, airy, shaded location for approximately 3 months to reduce the moisture content by approximately 10 to 15% (depends on the industry standard).
  • Store on the hot water cylinder for a minimum of 3 weeks. The additional dry out weight loss will be approximately 8%. (a dehumidifier can be very helpful)
  • Now dry and ready for cracking, the kernel will ideally be rattling in the shell and above all will be crunchy and savoury or sweet – depending on the variety.
  • Nuts can be taken to our SAMAC accredited Handlers (https://www.samac.org.za/handlers/).

Although research in this field is still underway, it is currently accepted that a mature macadamia tree needs approximately 500 – 600 mm of water per annum to produce a sustainable yield. It should however be noted that although large areas of South Africa have an annual rainfall exceeding the amount of water required by macadamias, this rainfall is not evenly distributed and as a result supplemental irrigation might be required, especially during certain phenological periods.

In areas with a well distributed rainfall and high potential soils, macadamias are successfully cultivated without any irrigation, but in these areas small trees (less than 3 years) are usually watered by hand until an extensive root system has been established and trees are capable of extracting larger volumes of soil water and nutrients.

August and September are the periods with the highest irrigation requirements due to low rainfall, high temperatures and low relative humidity. Furthermore, a high water demand arises in August and September, which are the months when most cultivars flower and nuts set.

This depends on location and of course, there are many variables. A rough guide would be to budget for approximately R100 000 per hectare of orchard establishment. This excludes any implements. After orchard establishment, it could cost up to R25 000 per hectare per year for general running costs (weeding, fertilising and irrigation). Also, take into consideration that as soon as trees start bearing you will need a dehusker and drying bins for the nuts.

SAMAC’s Research and Development activities are driven by a committee consisting of SAMAC staff (Director for Research and Development, CEO and Research and Development Manager), external technical consultants and experts from at least one other industry. The committee has drafted a framework outlining all the research/technical needs in the industry from a survey conducted under growers annually. The Research Framework and more information on all research projects can be found under the “Research and Development” tab on the website. The outcomes and progress of research projects are communicated to growers through quarterly Research and Development Newsletters and annually in the SAMAC journal and Research Symposium. A research library with articles on pests and diseases, post-harvest handling, horticulture etc is available to SAMAC members under the “Member” section.

SAMAC provides growers with updated lists of registered products, their maximum residue limits (MRLs) and labels continuously, and supports the registration of new chemicals through motivations to the Registrar of Act 36. SAMAC also has best practice videos on topics ranging from scouting to calibrating spray machinery, and releases fact sheets on various topics to members. All these resources are available to members in the “Technical Library” in the “Member” section.

Yes, SAMAC provides skills development for SAMAC registered emerging farmers, through study groups. Study groups provide farmers with information on the current production activities and innovations within the industry

According to Government Gazette 41970, it is required that all Growers, Nurseries, Processors, Consolidators of nut in shell, Exporters and Importers register with SAMAC NPC. This registration is for the purpose of gathering accurate industry information which will benefit the industry e.g. research needs, market development, crop estimates, tree census information, production forecasts, employment growth, etc. It also forms part of the process of collecting the statutory levy of 56 c/kg nut in shell (1.5% kernel moisture). The statutory measures require handlers (processors and consolidators of nut in shell) and importers of inshell macadamias to deduct and pay over the levy on behalf of all growers. Please note that the levy for the year 2020 of 56 c/kg excludes VAT, and that VAT must be charged on levies.

You are not automatically a member of SAMAC if you pay levies as membership and levies are two different aspects. Membership ensures that you receive all the latest information regarding the industry and have voting rights on important industry matters. Please see attached “Value of SAMAC membership”.

We therefore encourage all macadamia growers to becomemembers of SAMAC. If you have any further queries in this regard, kindly do not hesitate to contact Jurita van Zyl (jurita@samac.org.za)

SAMAC VA formed part of Subtrop while SAMAC NPC was established in November 2018. All SAMAC VA members had a grace period in which their membership could be transferred to SAMAC NPC. It might be that you did not receive the communication and therefore your membership was not transferred to SAMAC NPC. You can apply for SAMAC NPC membership by completing the application form. You are welcome to contact Jurita van Zyl (jurita@samac.org.za).

The NAMC has strict guidelines and requirements on how to spend the money received from levies. The breakdown is as follows:

50% – R&D

20% – Transformation

20 % – Special Projects

10 % – Administration and operational costs

The Board agreed that SAMAC’s offices should be centrally situated to ensure its staff can travel with ease to any of the Provinces where our 750 members are situated. The SAMAC office is less than 10 minutes from OR Tambo and conveniently situated to travel within 2 minutes on any of the main roads, leading to Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Furthermore, our 4 year strategy focuses on important industry needs such as obtaining favourable market access in China and India, to open new markets, to increase our research efforts to ensure better quality yields and to establish transformation initiatives to ensure an inclusive industry. Most of the stakeholders we need to engage with in this regard is situated in Gauteng.

It is important for us to also regularly communicate to our growers on various activities and therefore we use various mediums such as the SAMAC App, WhatsApp, newsletters, the SAMAC Journal and regional farmers feedback sessions that is hosted at least twice a year. If you do not receive the aforementioned, kindly contact Jurita van Zyl (jurita@samac.org.za)