In the month leading up to the publication of this edition of The Macadamia magazine, three noteworthy announcements made the headlines:

  1. South Africans had endured more load shedding since the start of this year than they experienced during the whole of 2022
  2. The country’s unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2023 was recorded at 32.9%, which was an increase of 0.2% on the fourth quarter of 2022. The rate is pegged as one of the highest in the world
  3. The World Meteorological Organisation announced global temperatures were likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fuelled by greenhouse gases and El Niño, with a 66% likelihood of temperatures temporarily exceeding 1.5° in at least one year.

Of course, there were other notable events, including US Ambassador Reuben Brigety’s declaration that South Africa had supplied weapons to Russia – an allegation for which he later apologised – that has put the country’s trade agreement, AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) with the United States in serious jeopardy.

The rand tanked after Brigety’s statement and in the first quarter of the year, economic activity dropped by 1.7% compared with the prior three months, suggesting South Africa has moved into a technical recession.

In the macadamia industry there is also little in the way of good news: product prices are low and the market over supplied with high unsold stocks from last year, meaning processors are only taking in nuts between 3% and 5% unsound kernel.

Input costs have risen exponentially since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the price of diesel is at a high of R21 a litre.

These challenges are further exacerbated by the prediction of a drought to end all droughts come the summer of 2024.

But as the online agriculture promotion star Farm Babe (aka Michelle Miller) says, the country’s farmers have an ace up their sleeves – how to “maak ’n plan” (make a plan) in the face of adversity.

The weak currency means reasonable returns for farmers who manage to get their crop sold on the global markets, and the rolling blackouts by the power utility, Eskom, have resulted in an exponential increase in the installation of solar energy on farms engaged in intensive crop production.

And the high cost of pesticides is seeing a spike in the number of farmers moving to biological controls in their orchards. This has massive benefits for biodiversity and environment protection.

Further, the macadamia sector is heavily invested in training for young black graduates and the provision of employment for thousands of people in the rural areas.

These are small flickers of light in what has become a long and dark tunnel.

And we have faith that “ons boere sal ’n plan maak” (our farmers will make a plan).