As the 2021 macadamia harvesting season gets under way, another indigenous or wild species of these nut-bearing trees, which are natural to the sub-tropical forests of Eastern Australia, has made it on to the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Macadamia Integrifolia, better known as the Queensland nut tree, was listed earlier this year joining another indigenous variety, namely Macadamia tetraphylla, on the list.

Interestingly the Beaumont variety so popular in South African orchards is a first-generation hybrid of both these rare and protected species.

On the home front, predictions around crop yields, global demand and pricing remain ambivalent mainly due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on world markets and unusual weather patterns, with areas such as Levubu being affected by excessive heat last year and now extreme frost in other areas, which has resulted in several thousand trees being “burned”.

As some experts have explained, the impact of the pandemic has not been “uniform” and while the crop has been predicted at between 55 000 tons and 63 000 tons, some farmers are anticipating a bumper crop. They say the thousands of hectares of newly planted orchards now coming into fruit have the potential to confound all pre-season predictions.

In essence, the 2021 macadamia harvest is very much a “wait-and-see” event when linked to nut yield, which must have processors a little anxious as the harvesting gets underway.

Experts are also expecting a lower than usual price for the crop, again due to the impact of the pandemic on sectors such as restaurants, hotels, confectionery manufacturers and bakeries. The snack market, however, remains robust.

In this edition of The Macadamia, we feature extensive articles on integrated pest management and how young up-and-coming farmers are embracing more natural methodologies of production.

New KwaZulu-Natal macadamia farmer Linda Lusso’s bee gardens are a sight to behold alongside her newly planted orchards. The purple flowers of the Sacred Basil are alive with bees, butterflies and a host of other single pollinators and insect predators.

Similarly, research into the secret lives of the yellow house bat has shown the importance of this tiny creature in the integrated pest management scheme methodology in controlling pests such as stinkbugs.

Apiarist and bee expert Inge Lotter speaks about the importance of bees in the macadamia orchards while urging farmers to become better acquainted with the importance of these pollinators in their orchards and how they should be protected.

Last and definitely not least, the journey of a farmer’s wife and a nougat recipe which today is a household name in South Africa is an inspiration for entrepreneurs looking to diversify macadamia nut production. Wedgewood nougat now uses macadamia nuts extensively in its delicious chocolates and biscuits.

And then there is the macadamia nut ice cream – truly sublime!

– Gareth Wright