After a disappointing 2015/16 season, the South African macadamia industry is looking forward to an average season. Several adverse factors remained during the growing season, for instance late rains in the north, restricted irrigation and warm winds burning flowers during springtime in the Hazyview area, affecting fruit set. Harvesting of early cultivars like 816, 788 and Nelmak 2 commences in March in the northern parts of the country with Beaumont harvests ready at the end of April or beginning May.
Last year’s harvest of 39 000t (22% down from 2015) attests to the effects of drought and low atmospheric humidity. South African volumes have in the past reached up to 47 000t and projected peak harvest volumes have not yet been reached – estimates up to 74 000t have been mentioned. An annual growth of 12% is expected due to increased plantings coming into full production (under favourable conditions a tree can bear fruit by its fifth year). Because trees have had a resting period due to lower than optimal production, 2017/18 might be an extremely good season, says Lindi van Rooyen, marketing manager of Valley Macadamias Group. But for the moment the industry can barely meet growing interest in the crop.
In the Lowveld region (Nelspruit, Hazyview, Barberton, White River) rains have brought momentary relief, especially to nuts under dryland production (even if it has resulted in some trees flowering twice), but dam levels are still sub-optimal. According to Alwyn du Preez, technical advisor to Golden Macadamias, their 2015/16 harvest was 10,500t, which they regard as quite low, given the area under production. Their farmers expect an average season, but it seems as if nut size might be larger than last year.