While South Africa’s macadamia industry remains relatively unscathed from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s leaders and commentators are united in a common belief that life will never be the same after the spread of the virus across the globe.

Economies have collapsed, prompting comparisons with the Great Depression of 1929 which left a swathe of economic and social devastation before finally the greatest horror of all, World War II, in its wake.

Unemployment today has never been as high, with millions and millions of people being retrenched across the United States, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, among other nations of the world.

South Africa has been touted alongside New Zealand and Germany as countries that “got it right”, where leaders acted quickly to lock down their countries, put travel bans in place and to effectively shut down their economies once the dangers of the spreading virus became known.

Germany and New Zealand are developed and well-off countries where it is believed the economies will recover relatively quickly.

In South Africa, however, the great divide between the haves and the have nots has never been so glaringly apparent, with growing and real concern that civil unrest linked to increasing hunger and poverty could overtake the country, leaving the pandemic to pale into insignificance.

But South Africans are rising to the challenge and in particular, our farmers.

In this edition of The Macadamia we highlight just a few of the many farming communities who acted quickly to impose measures to keep staff safe from infection, responded to food shortages in their neighbouring communities and, in some cases, where factory staff chose to self-isolate to protect their families from infection while keeping the economy going. We cannot say thank you enough to these individuals and farming communities for their contributions and sacrifices.

From the perspective of the industry as a whole, timing is everything, and as one expert commented, “the macadamia industry is on a thin line”.

Exports and the continuation of the predicted buoyant prices are dependent on the timeous re-opening of major markets such as China, Europe and the United States – although the good news is macadamia nuts, particularly nut-in-shell, have a long shelf life and will not spoil in case of delays.

And Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced that the remaining two weeks of lockdown would be used to clear backlogs at the country’s ports to make way for new cargo deliveries, which in the case of the Durban port, will include containers of macadamia nuts destined for world markets.

In unison with macadamia farmers and processors alike we are holding our breath while praying for a miracle that will see the world’s markets re-opening in time to receive their orders for South Africa’s macadamia crop.