Thousands of farmers from Delhi to Paris and Athens have taken their tractors and in some instances their livestock, to the streets in protest. They say bureaucracy and overbearing government regulations, particularly linked to climate change, are putting them out of business.

Here in South Africa, macadamia farmers continue to hold out against low commodity prices and ever-increasing input costs which include a 29% hike in the minimum wage since 2019.

And, with 50 countries heading to the polls this year, including South Africa, predictions are for a year of turmoil the world over.

You might well be wondering if there is a silver lining or a glimmer of hope?

The pricing crisis in the macadamia industry since 2022 has offered farmers a learning curve like no other.

Between 2018 and 2021 macadamias could do no wrong. Prices were off the charts – growers were earning about R203 000-a-hectare – embattled sugarcane farmers ploughed their crops back into the soils to make way for macadamia trees at scale. The prices were so good that efficiencies in some instances went out of the window as some farmers poured pesticides onto their trees in a bid to take full advantage of the bull run.

At the AmberMacs expo in February, economists offered little in the way of hope. We are on the brink of a world war, South Africa has thoroughly displeased the United States putting the preferential African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement at risk and the Chinese economy is stuttering.

Could it be that the macadamia-starved domestic market could offer the answers?

To date South Africa has exported 98% of its crop, but as the low nut prices drive demand and experts are calling on the industry to up its agri-processing game, opportunities really do exist in the domestic market.

And, pundits agree, the growing middle class in India is a market that cannot be overlooked. India has overtaken China’s population growth numbers and the progress in that economy is exponential. India was the fastest growing economy in the world in 2022 and 2023 with a steady 6.5% growth predicted for this year.

The downturn in the macadamia sector has meant farmers have had to cut back on the fat, operate at efficiency while at the same time turning over each Rand at least twice before its spent.  And, while some industry insiders might say the demand to cut back on inputs such as pesticides has meant much higher unsound kernel recovery, the reality is, there is much to be learned there too.