Macadamias South Africa (Samac) has concluded their fourth-quarter crop survey among Samac handlers and processors for the 2020 season. The crop for 2020 was 48 925 tons of nut in shell (NIS). NIS is measured at 1,5% kernel moisture content. This is 4,5% higher for quarter four compared to quarter three, but approximately 17,1% lower than the 2019 crop of 59 050 tons.

The graph below depicts the percentage of each province’s NIS production for 2020.

As mentioned before, climate change, and specifically adverse conditions during flowering and early nut development, mature orchards, insects, and diseases played a role in the decline of the 2020 macadamia crop. Pruning (or the lack thereof), especially in older trees, could also play a role in crop decline.

With that said formative pruning of young trees should have occurred by now while the trees are still small, as it will prevent more drastic interventions required later when canopy closure and competition for sunlight starts occurring.

Increase in macadamia crop expected for 2021

At this stage, we anticipate an increase in the 2021 crop, compared to 2020. However, the crop forecast will only be available at the end of February 2021.  We do not anticipate that tropical cyclone Eloise will have a major impact on crop yields.

The current rain in the provinces might be a bonus because of the below-average to average rainfall in recent years, which depleted the water tables to such an extent that most production regions were mostly dry at a time when trees really needed water and energy for oil (lipid) production. If the status quo continued, it could have led to a repetition of the previous season’s low crop.

In Limpopo, the nuts are generally bigger because of the rain the province had. Therefore it is a positive indication that the season ahead will certainly be better than the previous season.  At this stage, stink bugs and nut borer numbers are also low in the province.

Mpumalanga’s rainfall varied from approximately 160 to 250mm during tropical cyclone Eloise over a three-day period, with no significant harm to the trees. We expect a better yield in Mpumalanga, even though significant flower diseases were present early in the season. Stink bug numbers are certainly much lower, but nut borers are still a concern on cultivars 816 and 788, as well as all hybrids. 

KwaZulu-Natal had a very dry spring with some high day temperatures, which resulted in a low incidence of blossom blight and a high percentage of aborted ovules or ‘nubbins’ (Australian term for nuts that stay small due to aborted ovules) mainly in Beaumont, but also in A4/A16. Insect damage was low, although the nut borer levels were higher than usual, leading to a higher percentage of immature kernels. So far it has been observed that Integs, mainly 788 (South Coast), 816, 842, 814, and A4 have a better than average set, while the Beaumont crop is looking poor (similar to last year). This will have an overall negative impact on the crop. However we are optimistic that it will still be better compared to last year.

The table below indicates the percentage of decline or increase in macadamia production over the past five years.

YearTonnagePercentage from previous year
201546 0002,5% increase
201638 00017,4% decline
201744 61017,4% increase
201856 55026,8% increase
201959 0504,4% increase
202048 92517,1% decline

Samac is optimistic about the 2021 crop and will keep the industry posted as more information becomes available. – Press release, Samac