Coffee and macadamias prove to be a great match in the same orchard

Coffee and macadamias prove to be a great match in the same orchard

The Burger family, who farm near White River in Mpumalanga, own some of the oldest macadamia nut orchards in the area. The land below the towering trees is shaded and dark, with only patches of sunlight periodically filtering through.

The cool atmosphere among the trees and the spongy, mulch-dense soil mimic that of a jungle, just perfect for growing coffee.

Macvue is headed by father-and-son team Charles and Carel Burger, who both trained as commercial pilots. While on holiday at the farm during his studies, Carel decided to start experimenting with coffee cultivation.

“We had a coffee tree growing in the yard and I wanted to see if I could produce more trees by planting the beans. When they flourished, I started looking into coffee production on a larger scale.”

Charles explains that since coffee plants do best when planted in shade, it made sense to intercrop it with the macadamias. Coffee that receives minimal sunlight is also of a higher quality.

In addition, the farm does not have open land on which to establish a new crop.

“Coffee can’t tolerate cold and frost. The ideal altitude for production is above 800m, which is where we farm. The heat and humidity of the Lowveld are also well suited to coffee,” he says.

The Burgers planted their first large-scale coffee crop in 2018 under 20-year-old macadamia trees, using spacing of 8m x 5m. A coffee plant was planted on either side of each macadamia tree in the row. Today, the farm has 9 000 coffee trees in production.

Carel Burger started farming coffee between his macadamia nut trees after noticing that the coffee tree in the farmstead‘s garden was flourishing.


Low-cost production
Beans that are not picked up off the ground will germinate and produce more plants. When the Burgers decided to plant coffee on a large scale, they obtained plants from a nearby farmer, Robbie Nel, who was growing coffee.

“He allowed us to go into his orchards and take out the extra trees that were sprouting, because the additional coffee plants actually become weeds. We did this for the first year and thereafter we had our own germinated seeds in the orchards that we could transplant,” recalls Carel.

The extracted seedlings are first placed in a nursery for a year to grow bigger before being transplanted in the orchard. Here, they are given a simple fertiliser to boost growth.

Carel notes that having Nel as an adviser at the start of their foray into coffee production was a great advantage, as there is little information on growing this crop in South Africa.

“There’s no industry organisation in South Africa that focuses on research and development for coffee. Internationally, most growers do this in-house, and coffee farmers are generally quite stingy with sharing information. There’s a fair amount available on the Internet, but not everything works in our environment.”

The Burgers plant the varieties F6, SL28 and SL34 on their farm. The SL varieties produce a higher-quality coffee, but the trees are more prone to disease. The F6 is easy to manage, but produces coffee of a lower quality.

Establishment costs have been kept to a minimum, as seedlings are freely available and intercropping has meant that no soil preparation needs to done.

“You do interfere somewhat with the roots of the macadamia trees when digging holes to plant the coffee, but it’s not a big problem. Because the orchards have drip irrigation, the roots are generally concentrated in a specific area, which we avoid,” Charles notes.

Fertiliser is added in the hole when the coffee seedlings are planted. Some of the seedlings are planted in orchards where the macadamias are planted on ridges, and these coffee trees do particularly well.

It takes three to four years to get a full harvest from the newly planted trees. Yield currently reaches 1t/ha, but orchards in full production should go up to 3t/ha. Trees planted in full shade take longer to produce, but the coffee is of a higher quality, ensuring a higher price.

Another advantage of coffee as an intercrop is that it responds well to the same fertiliser and crop protection programme as the macadamias. The only change is a 10% increase in the nutrition applied to an orchard.

Additional foliar fertiliser applications would help to boost the yield of the coffee trees, admits Carel, but these would come at a considerable increase in labour cost, as each tree needs to be sprayed individually.

“You have to weigh up the increase in income from yield versus the increase in labour costs. Ultimately, the macadamias remain the cash cow, so their needs take precedence.”

Soil moisture is measured by probes, and irrigation is scheduled accordingly, but Carel explains that coffee is not overly thirsty and the irrigation requirement has increased by only around 10% since this crop was added.

“Each plant ends up with about 4ℓ per week. The fact that it’s planted in shade means it doesn’t have a high water requirement. We manage the irrigation by placing two drippers per macadamia tree and only one on the coffee, as the macadamias need more water.”

The coffee is pruned regularly to ensure that the trees don’t exceed 2m. This is both to prevent the coffee from interfering with the macadamias, and also to ease the harvesting process.

Flowering starts in September, coinciding with the macadamias. Although coffee is self-pollinating, its sweet-smelling blooms attract bees into the orchards, where they then pollinate the macadamias, providing an added benefit for the nut production.

Pests that affect coffee are taken care of by the crop protection methods used on the macadamias, which saves on input costs.

The seasons overlap, so the withholding periods to take into account are the same for both crops. The coffee harvest starts around June, just after that of the macadamias.

Phytophthora is a potential threat to the coffee trees and must be managed. Carel notes that keeping the plants healthy is key to reducing their susceptibility to this fungus.

“Globally, stem borer is a big problem for coffee production, especially as it’s not easy to spot. The tree won’t die immediately, but over time the yield will drop and eventually the tree will die. We haven’t yet noticed stem borer in our orchards, but we prune against it by removing all side branches from the trunk up to 0,5m off the ground,” says Carel.

The Burgers imported this small coffee roaster from China. It can roast 10kg of beans at a time.


Processing the beans

Charles says that the greatest challenge with coffee production is the market, but the greatest cost is labour to pick the coffee.

“The general rule is that on 1ha of coffee you need 20 to 45 pickers. The way in which we farm means there’s a gradual harvest over a few months, so the workers go through the orchards every week to pick only the fully ripe cherries. This requires less labour (around 15 workers) than in Brazil, for example, where they pick the entire orchard in one go.”

After the coffee has been harvested, the cherries go through a depulper, which removes the outer, fleshy layer around the beans.

There are different methods to follow from here, and Carel is experimenting with two: the honey and the wet method. With the former, the beans are placed on a drying rack in the sun straight after depulping, with much of its wet, sticky-sweet layer still intact.

The wet method, which is the most widely used, entails placing the depulped beans in water to ferment for four days, during which time the slimy layer around the beans falls off. The beans are then placed on drying racks in the sun.

“Each has its pros and cons, but ultimately it depends on what flavour you prefer,” says Carel.

“We tried the honey method last year, but it seems as if the wet method produces better flavour, so we’ll go back to that this year.

“It’s difficult to get a sense of which is better, as it’s not just the drying method that influences the flavour of the coffee, but the climate. You can get different flavours of coffee between two years based on changes in the weather.”

It takes around two weeks in the sun to dry the beans to between 11% to 15%. The beans then go through a dehuller, which removes the thin papery layer around them. They can then be stored in bags for a few months and roasted as needed.

“Part of our value offering is that we provide fresh coffee. As the client orders, we roast,” Carel explains.

Maximising value

The Burgers decided early on to produce coffee for the boutique market rather than sell green beans in bulk to large-scale roasters and packers.

“At 9 000 trees, we’re at our peak. If we wanted to plant more coffee, we would need to buy more land. Producing in bulk makes selling in bulk more feasible. But at the volumes we produce, there’s more value in roasting, packaging and selling directly to the consumer,” says Carel.

The farm has received numerous requests for green beans, but at the price offered for green beans – R120/kg for really good quality – the Burgers would only break even. Compared with the R330/kg they receive for roasted beans, it’s easy to see that more value lies in roasting their own beans.

Carel adds that the cost to have the beans roasted by an external service provider is high, which was why they invested in their own roaster.

“You need economies of scale to justify the price,” he admits, “but we’re getting there.”

The small roaster, which can accommodate 10kg per batch and takes 10 minutes to perform the roast, is sufficient to handle the farm’s entire crop of around 3t.

Carel notes that roasting coffee beans can be a finicky process to perfect. He attended a number of courses on roasting, but mostly learns through experimenting.

“Because we produce our own coffee, we can afford to experiment a bit, so it doesn’t cost the business a lot to learn. All the experiments go to the household to consume, so it fulfils our own coffee needs!”

The roaster is gas-powered, with a small electric motor. The farm is in the process of switching to solar power, which will eliminate any delays caused by load-shedding.

The coffee is packaged on the farm under their Foothills brand, a reference to the farm being situated at the foothills of the Drakensberg, in prime coffee-growing climate.

Most of the coffee is sold in the Lowveld to restaurants and through word of mouth to locals. A small portion is sold online through Takealot, but Carel says that the cost of being on this platform is high and they are using it “more to just get our name out there and test the market”.

“Getting our product into coffee shops is very difficult, as most have a contract with the company that supplies and services their coffee machines. It’s hard to get around this unless you start providing machines as well. We’ve built up a good following of locals who drink only our coffee, and this is the kind of market we want to focus on.”

Carel’s holiday project has proved to be a boon for this macadamia farm, maximising the value extracted from their land.

While the journey is still in its early stages, it could prove to be the foundation for a flourishing coffee industry in South Africa, with the crop being grown side by side with other subtropical crops.

Email Carel at

International Macadamia Symposium Committee Reunites

International Macadamia Symposium Committee Reunites

The IMSC, the dedicated independent organisation championing the global Macadamia industry, recently convened in person for the first time post-COVID at the IMS in Zimbali this September.

New Leadership in Sight

With the departure of Mr. Jolyon Burnet, the former Chairperson, we are thrilled to announce that Mrs. Lizel Pretorius has been nominated as the Acting Chairperson.

Her nomination received resounding support from IMSC members, and we eagerly anticipate her leadership guiding IMSC to new horizons.

Announcing the host of the 10th IMS

On 1 March 2024, IMSC will unveil the winner of the bid to host the 10th IMS.

The winner will be announced by IMSC member organisations.

Global Research Focus

The Global Research Focus event, which took place on the morning of 18th September 2023, was organized by SAMAC’s R&D division, Dr Gerda Fourie (University of Pretoria) and Prof Femi Akinsanmi (Australia).

It was held as part of the IMS 2023 at Zimbali and was aimed at bringing together the diverse group of macadamia experts. With approximately 50 of the top macadamia researchers in attendance, the Global Research Focus fostered a spirit of openness and collaboration among key player countries.

The event offered a dynamic platform which combined problem-solving skills in the form of a round table solution session. Several worldwide macadamia production challenges were addressed. It was truly a pivotal moment for the global macadamia research community, highlighting the importance of working together to advance the industry.

Farm Visits

The IMS 2023 wrapped up with informative farm visits on the afternoon of 21 September 2023, with approximately 250 delegates visiting three macadamia farms on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Delegates rotated between different “stations” on each farm where growers either showcased specific interest points of their operations such as cracking plants or fertigation pump houses, or where demonstrations on aspects of macadamia management took place. Leading technical advisors and researchers gave short presentations on aspects such as orchard rejuvenation, pest and disease scouting, pruning and irrigation.

The farm visits even included a surprise visit by GUSS, IMS 2023 event partner John Deere and GUSS Automations’ autonomous sprayer. The farm visits were hugely successful and enjoyed by all, with the added bonus that everyone walked away with renewed energy to implement what they have learned.

Friendly Competition among Delegates

During our cultural evening at the IMS, spontaneous excitement took over as delegates organised an impromptu swimming race. The late-night event brought immense joy to all participants, showcasing the fun side of our delegation. In a surprising turn of events, Graeme Whyte, our eldest competitor, emerged victorious, illustrating that our delegates are competitive both inside and outside the boardroom.

Interactive Drumming

On 19 September, our delegates enjoyed an interactive drumming workshop with the World renowned Drum Cafe. The workshop, known for reducing stress and promoting feelings of wellbeing and team camaraderie, was the perfect scene-setter to kick off the much-anticipated IMS.

“I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who supported the 9th International Macadamia Symposium, where we proudly represented our beautiful country, South Africa, and the thriving macadamia industry. Your dedication and enthusiasm have played a pivotal role in making this event a resounding success. Together, we continue to elevate the macadamia industry to new heights.

Thank you for your unwavering support.” – Lizel Pretorius, CEO of SAMAC.

VIP Guests

The IMS truly shone with a constellation of local and international talent.

Our conference commenced with an exciting golf day featuring a celebrity four-ball, graced by the presence of Pat Lamby and Bobby van Jaersveld.

Leading the proceedings was the former Miss South Africa and the esteemed host of “Top Billing,” Joanne Strauss.

Our lineup of speakers was equally impressive, featuring Mrs. Chen Yuxiu, the Founder and Chairwoman of YMAC, the vice-chairwoman of CNSA (The Specialised Committee for Nuts and Dried Fruits of China National Food Industry Association), and the chairwoman of Yunnan Macadamia Society

We also had the privilege of hosting Jillian Laing, the CEO of The World Macadamia Organisation.

Credit Original Source:

SAMAC – Macadamias South Africa

IMS 2023 a Great Success

IMS 2023 a Great Success

“Celebrating Success and Innovation in the Macadamia Industry”

We are delighted to share the fantastic news that the International Macadamia Symposium (IMS), held at The Capital Zimbali Coastal Estate from 18 – 22 September 2023, was an overwhelming success!

IMS 2023 welcomed an impressive total of 761 delegates, with 115 international participants from more than 20 countries, joining us from around the globe. Furthermore, the IMS hosted 40 exhibitors, most of whom were highly satisfied with the turnout and amount of foot traffic that their stands received on a daily basis.

IMS 2023 was not only an educational and networking opportunity but also a cultural experience. The beautiful setting of The Capital Zimbali Coastal Estate, combined with South Africa’s rich culinary traditions, added an unforgettable dimension to the symposium.

The symposium was concluded with a series of field visits in which experts in their respective fields demonstrated practical aspects of macadamia production under typical South African conditions.

As we look back on this incredible event, we are inspired by the passion and dedication of everyone involved in the macadamia industry. Together, we are shaping the future of macadamia cultivation and promoting this delicious and nutritious nut to the world.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our sponsors, with a special mention to our Event Partner, John Deere.

Other main sponsors included: YMAC, Laitram Machinery, IfSquare, Syngenta, Corteva and Villa Crop Protection. Your support was instrumental in making IMS 2023 a reality and a resounding success.

Credit Original Source:-




Promising Update – Macadamias South Africa (SAMAC) Reports Resilient Performance

Promising Update – Macadamias South Africa (SAMAC) Reports Resilient Performance

Based on data from our trusted Handlers, the anticipated harvest comprises an impressive 77,532
tonnes of dry nut-in-shell, boasting a moisture content of 1.5%. What makes this projection even more
impressive is its 12.6% increase compared to the crop yield of 2022.

Lizel Pretorius, CEO of SAMAC, did note a decrease of 4,024 tonnes from the initial forecast at
the beginning of the year. She attributed this adjustment to the challenges posed by excessive
rainfall during the first quarter in our macadamia-growing regions.

“This weather condition made it challenging for growers to access their orchards, and a shortage
of sunlight negatively affected bee pollination and photosynthesis,“ she stated.

Nevertheless, the South African macadamia industry has exhibited remarkable resilience in the
face of various challenges, which include weather-related obstacles, pest and disease pressures,
and economic uncertainties.

The dedication of South African macadamia farmers to producing high-quality nuts has been
a key factor in maintaining South Africa’s prominent position in the global macadamia market.

Lizel anticipates that South Africa is nearing the conclusion of its harvest season and envisions
that crop figures should remain relatively stable.

Production Increase in tonnes % growth from the
from the previous previous year
2010 28 428 4 921 20,9%
2011 30 068 1 640 5,8%
2012 34 571 4 503 15,0%
2013 37 500 2 929 8,5%
2014 44 890 7 390 19,7%
2015 46 000 1 110 2,5%
2016 38 000 -8000 -17,4%
2017 44 610 6 610 17,4%
2018 56 550 11 940 26,8%
2019 59 050 2 500 4,4%
2020 48 925 -10125 -17,1%
2021 53 585 4 660 9.5%
2022 68 840 15 255 28.5%
2023 77 532 8 692 12,6%

For more information, please contact:
Jurita van Zyl on: or 082 406 7047


R176m lifeline extended to growers as sugar industry battles milling sector crisis

R176m lifeline extended to growers as sugar industry battles milling sector crisis

2nd Aug 2023

SA Canegrowers welcomed the disbursement of R60 million in transformation intervention funding to black and small-scale canegrowers through the South African Sugar Association, said chairman of SA Canegrowers, Andrew Russell.

This funding is critical as the industry continues to face the crisis in the milling sector and growers try to recover from the financial shocks of the last season, he continued.

The industry has budgeted R125 million for black and small-scale growers delivering less than 1,800 tons of cane in the 2023/2024 season. R60 million will be paid out at the end of July 2023, together with the payments for cane delivered in June 2023.  A further R50 million will be paid out in November 2023, with the balance to be paid out in January 2024.

R51 million has also been budgeted for black growers and joint ventures delivering more than 1,800 tons of cane. These are predominantly land reform growers.

“SA Canegrowers is committed to the survival of the industry and to supporting the industry’s most vulnerable small-scale and black growers. We will continue to work with our industry partners through the South African Sugar Association to protect the one million livelihoods the industry supports,” said Russell.

Small-scale growers were particularly hard hit by the decisions of the Business Rescue Practitioners at the Tongaat Hulett and Gledhow sugar mills to default on financial obligations to the industry totalling R1,5 billion. This reduced the final RV price of sugar for the season by more than R400 per ton. The legal action brought in this regard is ongoing.

Notwithstanding the unresolved matter of the 2022/2023 financial obligations, the business rescue processes at both mills appear to be progressing. Last week, the business rescue practitioners at Tongaat Hulett announced the selection of a strategic equity partner to help save the milling giant’s South African operations. While SA Canegrowers has welcomed this announcement, it remains to be seen what the final arrangements for Tongaat Hulett will be, and whether these can save the sugarcane operations that are so vital to local economies on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

Russell said that, in light of these challenges, the funding disbursed this month is vital to sustain growers in the interim. It will provide critical support in an environment marked by rising debt servicing costs and high input costs. This is especially important for small-scale growers, who face the greatest challenge in accessing operating and capital finance.

Credit Original Source: KZN Industrial & Business News (

Eskom powers tough times for mac farmers

Eskom powers tough times for mac farmers

Despite the drop in South Africa’s diesel price in April, macadamia farmers say the cost of fuel to run generators during Eskom’s rolling blackouts is crippling operations.

Against the backdrop of a bumper harvest, hundreds of farmers who expected to cash in on the growing popularity of macadamia nuts and had planted vast acreages of macadamia trees since 2018 – mainly in KwaZulu-Natal – are under the cosh.

Industry body SAMAC has revised its 2023 crop estimations to 81 556 tons, which is 18.5% higher than the 2022 crop of 68 840 tons. And production has increased by 12 716 tons this year compared with the previous harvest.

But these numbers come at a time when the world is over-supplied and nut prices are at rock-bottom.


Power crisis


The government’s failure to avert the ongoing collapse of the country’s power utility and to introduce an integrated power supply programme that includes wind and solar has not only flatlined economic growth, but the production of food, adequate for domestic and export demand, is under severe threat.

Because of the electricity crisis, South Africa is now deemed to have entered a technical recession, as economic activity contracted by 1.7% in the first quarter for this year, while Bloomberg analysts peg growth at just 0.2% for the remainder of the year.

William Davidson, who farms macadamias near Empangeni in Northern Zululand, said the Eskom crisis coupled with the diesel price increase from about R17 a litre in February 2022 to about R21 a litre a year later has seen the cost of maintaining the integrity of his macadamia crop rise beyond sustainable levels.

“Stage 6 load shedding means our power is off for ten hours a day, on week days and weekends.”

His generator, he added, consumed eight litres an hour at R21 per litre an hour, totalling R168 an hour or R1 680 per day. Service costs are at R4 200 every 250 hours, “which we are doing roughly every 30 days”.

“Three years ago, it took six to eight months before servicing was required. It’s crazy,” he said.

The biggest issue for macadamia farmers was the power required to keep air blowing through the bins in which nuts were stored and dried. While it might be acceptable to have the fans off for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, to shut them off for anything up to four hours or more was problematic.

Installing solar energy would require an exponential capital investment to handle the power required to get the fans up and running for each bin. “Most farmers have between 15 and 20 drying bins, with fans dedicated to each bin. One fan requires about 55kw to run but at least three times that amount of energy is required to start it up. To invest capex now and install solar power when the global macadamia market has crashed is not the best thing to do,” he said.

The cost of inputs like fertiliser had also increased exponentially, particularly in 2022, and while the price had dropped slightly, it was still very expensive.

Further, as banks are using interest rate hikes to target high inflation in the face of an international cost of living crisis, the cost of borrowing money was exponentially higher that before the pandemic, Davidson added.

“Banks are cranking up their rates as the Reserve Bank increases its rates, so the cost of borrowing money is huge right now.”


Banking support


Abrie Rautenbach, head of AgriBusiness at the Absa Group agreed the power crisis and its impact on farming was of concern. “This comes as large parts of the sector are already under pressure due to increasing input costs. Producers therefore have limited capacity to invest in alternative energy.”

But, he added, the bank was well aware of the cyclical nature of agriculture and there was a good understanding at Absa that farmers were going through a difficult time. “As such we are seeing some clients who are unable to meet debt repayments and/or carrying over debt from the previous season. Based on the track record and risk profile of each of these producers, the bank will provide bridging finance or restructure their debt,” Rautenbach said.

Nico Groenewald who is the head of AgriBusiness at Standard Bank agreed that banks could not apply a blanket approach to their clients.

“The macadamia industry has been experiencing difficulties particularly around the commodity price and carryover stock levels. The impact thereof is finding its way in different layers of intensity into the industry depending on where in the value chain a client finds himself. Having said that, the unique composition of each client’s financial standing, size of his macadamia operation within his broader farming operation and also the age composition of the mac trees, among other result in each business operation’s experience of the market pressures being different.”

Groenewald added that large-scale expansion in such conditions would therefore be difficult to fund with large portions of debt. The focus should now be on cost containment and where possible balance sheet and debt restructuring, he said.

He warned farmers to increase their focus on financial planning, cashflow management and consultation with financiers and suppliers to reach solutions before the impact of the adverse conditions got to a point where they could not recover.

Agriculture information and marketing head at First National Bank Dawie Maree urged farmers who were in trouble to speak to their bankers sooner rather than later. He said the bank was more concerned about the sustainability of processors rather than that of macadamia farmers.

“When processors need to run back-up generators at huge cost to process the macs, that is where there will be impact,” he said.

All three pointed to “clever funding solutions” around alternative energy solutions provided by financiers. They said farmers and processors were making use of these solutions on an ever-growing scale.

Price crash

Karen Carlton-Shields, who with her husband Robert farms macadamias on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, said they were “battening down the hatches”.

“We saw the power crisis coming so started investing in alternative power about five years ago. That means we can manage the load shedding, but the prices are so low for our crop, and because of the glut in the market, processors are only prepared to take nuts of very low unsound kernel. We are in for very, very tough times,” she said.

She urged the industry to develop the domestic market as a back-up, saying South Africans seldom had a chance to experience the taste of the high-quality nuts produced by local growers, as at least 98% of the crop was exported.

“Another problem is because many will become desperate to sell their crop, the possibility exists for dumping of poor-quality product on the South African market and that is not good for the industry at all,” she said.

In 2022 farmers were realising on average about R190 a kilogram for kernel and R188 per kg in 2121. This season they will be lucky if they get R160 a kg.

Allen Duncan, chief executive at the Green Farms Nut Company, said most “destinations” were well stocked with product, and retail sales had yet to adjust to the significant drop in kernel prices since 2022. While demand for nut-in-shell from China was “buoyant”, the quality specs were high and prices low, he added.

Russia’s war

While Carlton-Shields said she believed questionable strategies used by some marketers post the pandemic were partly responsible for the world glut and rock-bottom prices, Duncan put the blame for the crisis squarely at the feet of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The Ukraine issue has affected the whole world and the man in the street is dealing with higher interest rates, high energy costs, and high inflation resulting in less discretional spending money available. Most tree nut types are seeing lower prices and the demand for cheaper snacking options has increased.”

The collapse of Eskom, he added, was an additional pressure. “The high load shedding schedules are putting pressure on growers, processors and the country. Costs are increasing where the industry can ill afford it.”

The weak local currency will offer some assistance in the short term but in time, will increase costs through the whole value chain, he added.