If you caught January’s story you’d have noticed that it was only half a story … here’s the other half! Probably best that you go back and enjoy Part 1 first so that there’s context for this content but, if you don’t want to, here’s a summary …

Date of visit 9 April 2021
Area George, Western Cape
Soils Saamgestelde soils (compounded) Mostly sandy on a clay underlayer. 50mm to 1500mm deep.
Rainfall 700mm annually
Altitude Below 300m
Distance from the coast 8kms
Temperature range 15° to 25° C
Varieties 18 different cultivars, but most orchards are 788, 816, 246
Hectares under mac 110 hectares

Total farm 320 hectares – a lot unarable in gorges etc.

Other crops 50 hectares avocados  |  100 head beef cattle, Grazing black wattle down to avoid that weed taking over.

In Part 1 we covered Jaff’s credentials, some background on the Macadamia Industry, Jaff’s move from Levubu to the Cape, other income streams on this farm and why Jaff chose macs primarily, Jaff’s unique perspective on farming, land prep, planting, cultivar assessments as well as nutrition and moisture management. From there we pick up with …


Jaff has a very interesting view on pruning. He explained that, after 40 years of studying these trees, he does not believe that pruning should be as complicated as it is made out to be. “I am not a disciple of tree training. I believe that you lose production unnecessarily, all for the sake of a nice-looking tree. I prefer not to remove productive branches for the sake of shape.”

Jaff encourages lower branches on young trees by removing competition (grasses and weeds) from around them. The stem requires sunshine to stimulate the lower buds to open up. Small trees that don’t produce these lower branches are removed completely. At a later stage, these lower branches will be removed, for three reasons:

  1. To create space for the harvesters to work
  2. So that herbicides don’t affect the tree
  3. To allow sunlight access

Skirt height and herbicide zone evident – Jaff is prepping for the harvest.

Because of time constraints, pruning starts in July, before the harvest is complete. Different cultivars react differently to pruning; some produce water shoots very quickly, others take time – this is not always convenient for a commercial farm’s management programme but needs to be factored in to achieve the best results.

Jaff has noticed that 816, if pruned severely, will flower afterwards, but not set.

Young trees are left unpruned, to grow and build volume. Only when it becomes vital, he will open windows by taking out complete limbs, right back to the stem. Sometimes only light pruning, with a hedge trimmer, is necessary to facilitate unobstructed tractor access. This season’s crop is heavy enough that it is pulling the trees open, resulting in tightly congested interrows – Jaff needs to decide how best to prune in July; and is considering a heavy prune on one side of each row.

In terms of controlling height, Jaff is guided by sunlight access; only if any part of the orchard floor is not receiving sun at some point during the day, is the height lowered. This sunlight is vital to sustain a healthy soil ecology in the top 80 to 100mm.

Branches are encouraged to start from nice and low. Jaff believes the dispersion of branches gives the tree a stronger structure and more productive wood. Too many branches at one level, weakens it.

Environmental Management

Our outlooks are enriched by maturity and experience and there’s seldom a shortcut to this valuable perspective. For me, Jaff has arrived and it is evident in the holistic way he manages the orchards and farm as part of a greater ecology, both above and below the ground. I, being nowhere near where Jaff is, might struggle to capture all the facets of this integrated approach but here’s an attempt:

Natural Supplements

Winter in this area runs from August to October which is a key growth period in a mac tree’s phenology. The lack of heat during this period adversely affects the kernel size. It was suggested to Jaff that he sprays sugar on to the trees during this time. Despite his deep suspicion that he was wasting his time, he sprayed treacle onto the macs’ leaves and … it worked! Jaff then added fish extracts, which are highly nutritious and easily available in the Cape, and really saw results, not only in the trees and nuts but also for the bees who appreciated the sugar spray in the lean months before flowering (it also attracts new bees into the orchard), and the soil ecology that was particularly enriched by the fish. Jaff says that these natural supplements could be used to help trees through stressful periods in any area but warns farmers not to spray sugar on their trees in a heat wave as it could burn the leaves, “Rather bolster the trees’ energy by providing this supplement BEFORE the stressful period.”

Jaff is also now including fish emulsion in the irrigation water, particularly during the flower initiation period.


Jaff has a beekeeper friend who hires out his hives to pollinate crops. He weighs the hives before they go out and they’re often around 50kgs. When they came back in, they’ve usually diminished to around 15kgs. Although the hives have pollen, they are seriously short of honey because the commercial crops that need pollinating are often pollen-rich but nectar-lean. The imbalance that manifests in the hive is unhealthy. Jaff applied these lessons in his environment and decided to build up a permanent and sustainable work-force of pollinators.

Currently he has about 140 hives but hopes to increase this to at least 2 hives per hectare. The only honey taken is consumed in their own home, the rest is all left for the bees. Jaff has also started planting rows of pollen and nectar-rich plants, especially where redundant wind-breaks have been removed. One of his favourites is basil as shown below:

The bees do more than just pollinate, they also monitor the health of the ecosystem – if the bees are healthy, Jaff knows things are okay, if they get sick or move, he has to find out why. The hives are all very close to the mac trees and he makes sure every farm chemical is assessed with this in mind.

The local Cape Bee is a docile creature, smaller and darker than the African Honey bee. Jaff says they are typically “cape” in that they are slow to rise and quick to bed. I found some interesting info on this site: https://beeaware.org.au/archive-pest/cape-honey-bee/#ad-image-0

Jaff was excited that another small bee made an appearance while we were in the office. The locals call it Karri. He explains that they are very good pollinators but you seldom see them.

Karri bee made a special appearance and posed for a photo.

Bumble bee in flight. The basil is fertigated with same nutrition given to the macadamias.


Jaff has experienced wind! He’s seen 15-year-old mac trees snapped like twigs so when he moved to the notoriously windy Cape, he was not taking any chances. He planted windbreaks for kilometres …

But the Cape wind has not lived up to it’s infamous reputation and Jaff has seen less damage here than he experienced in Levubu; probably because the wind here is more of a gentle constant – harmful for the younger trees but beneficial for the older trees. Yes, I also wondered at that second part but Jaff explained that the gentle (3 to 5m per second) south easterly is moisture-laden and keeps the orchard cool, enabling the trees to keep transpiring and the factory running. The heavier, potentially harmful winds come from the north (hot winds) and from the south west (cold fronts that generally bring rain).

To protect the younger trees, Jaff installs shade cloth barricades and stakes. The two-year olds, shown on the right.  The youngest Nelmak 2s, shown on the left, are protected on 2 sides.

Unlike most other mac farms I have visited, the macs closest to the windbreaks are not struggling at all as is evidenced by this 814.

Jaff says he believes the macs are accustomed to competing as they have competed for centuries in the blue gum forests in their native Australia. “This doesn’t happen with the avos,” laments Jaff, “the outside row there is always brown with stress.” Jaff explains that he just has to watch the potassium in these borderline macs as the casuarinas seem to gobble this up. Sometimes, the macs closest to the casuarinas are smaller but Jaff is happy that they still produce well.

Another thing that requires attention is that the casuarinas do damage irrigation pipes and can even force their way in to the pipes, through the joins.

Jaff has tried a number of different windbreak options:

  • Figs – when Jaff was ready to plant windbreaks on this Cape farm, there were no casuarinas available so he tried figs. Shortly thereafter his first choice became available so he interplanted them as seen in the pic above. Jaff thinks the figs might be more suited to the avos because those trees don’t get as tall.
  • I asked about Chinese poplars but Jaff prefers the windbreaks to be evergreen, thereby maximising protection throughout the year. The Chinese poplars lose their leaves.
  • European cypress – the tops of these trees are too thin to affect the wind’s behaviour sufficiently.

European Cypress

When orchards are big enough, Jaff either removes the windbreak and replaces with a row of macadamias (as he’s done alongside this road) or he puts in a hedge of bee-food, like basil.

This perspective gives a good view of the extensive windbreaks protecting this young orchard, both in trees and shade-cloth.

Orchard floor care

As already mentioned, Jaff intentionally invests in the entire orchard floor by seeding, mulching and removing nothing.

Thick carpet of mulch

Jaff does not compost in piles. To maximise the benefits of both mulch and compost Jaff moves the whole composting process into the orchard. Before plant material decomposes, it provides a protective barrier on the soil. As soon as it decomposes, it is quickly integrated into the soil. Jaff adds micro-organisms to the mulch to boost the natural processes but also likes to ensure a good percentage of hard wood in the mulch so that the longevity of the protective barrier is maximised.

Jaff plants a rye grass in the orchards. It grows well in the shade (under the trees) which means that he has to control it when it comes time to harvest. From August to harvest, no herbicides are used in the orchards. In preparation for harvest, Jaff uses them to kill off the ‘green’ under the trees. Once the harvest is complete, the mowers come through the interrows and throw the cut grass and other plant material back under the trees.

Jaff laughs that, as farmers, we are often our own worst enemies – always growing things that need to be cut down and complicate the management of a farm. It is a precarious balance to keep grasses etc in check but he emphasises that you should not remove anything from the orchard as it is all a valuable resource for the crop. On the contrary you should be supplementing with additional mulch as often as possible. Jaff does this particularly in the younger orchards and relies on the older orchards to produce a lot of their own mulch through prunings.

As with most eco-wise farmers, Jaff foregoes a pristinely manicured farm for one that hosts as much “wild” as possible. The value of this (overgrown) plant material is not limited to the soil surface because the roots do vital work below ground, breaking up the soil and improving aeration. They also grow deep and retrieve nutrients from deeper in the soil which helps the shallow-feeding mac trees. Jaff finds this excessive plant material preferable to running implements through established orchards (ripping) as these cause damage to the mac roots and disturb the subsoil life.

As a man who is typically neat and ordered, he has had to work hard to celebrate the apparent chaos in the orchards during summer – it helps to focus on the detail, like the variety of beneficial insects brought in by the smorgasbord of plants. The resident bees also benefit from the supplemented options.

Rye grass growing into the mulch.

Pest Management

There is so much wisdom to pack in under this section so I’m going to highlight the key issues:

Bio-agents: Jaff has been using metarhizium with great success. This is a fungus that he applies through the irrigation system every month (except 3 months in winter) at a rate of 250ml/hectare and, if required, onto the leaves as well. It has had a significant impact on thrips. Spraying thrips with chemicals is something Jaff only resorts to when the damage is threatening to become extensive. One side of the farm, that borders a vegetable farm, is often afflicted, probably because of the imbalanced ecology typical of veggie farms where spraying is commonplace.

Metarhizium is selective and therefore has a limited impact on the subsoil ecology. It is also beneficial for the bees. Jaff sprinkles some on the bee hive landing pads during flowering season because it not only deters the wax moths that force the bees to abandon hives, it is also taken by the bees into the orchard where it helps to control aphids and other harmful, flower-dwelling insects. General orchard health has improved since using this fungus.

A bacteria is used to control grasshoppers. It can also be used on stink bugs but, because it requires contact to work, it has limited efficacy on this mac pest.

Chemical resistance: This is a common topic but one, I now realise, I have not been investigating from all sides. I understand the view that says that we should be using a range of chemicals in order to prevent resistance and, generally, that is what farmers are doing – the majority of spray programmes purposely “switch it up” for this reason. BUT, if we step back and view this approach from nature’s perspective, are we really doing the right thing?

Jaff explains this view further; “In 2013 I was running a dairy. Ordinarily there was grazing only, no supplementary feed, but this year it was very dry and we had to get hay in. Obviously, everyone was in the same boat and hay was scarce. We could only get hay from the Free State. Shortly thereafter we had a continual infestation of ticks on the cows’ heads. No dips worked. Eventually the University of the Free State came to help. They also found that there was no dip, suitable for dairy, that was effective. These ticks were resistant to all registered products. The only solution was to use a stronger dip and throw away dams of milk while the poison worked its way out of the herd.”

Jaff learnt a lot from the professors through this experience and believes it is applicable to agriculture across the board, “We should NOT be mixing up the chemicals. The whole industry (or at least regions) should collaborate and spray ONE chemical at a time. Only when that chemical becomes ineffective should EVERYONE change, at the same time, to a new chemical. Pests are not confined by the fences between our farms – likewise, our pest management programmes should extend across borders – one orchard, ‘300’ farmers. In failing to organise this collaboration, we build the insects’ resistance to ALL chemicals, SIMULTANEOUSLY.” Jaff adds, and we’ve all seen it, that the chemical companies cannot produce new chemicals fast enough to keep up with the super-bugs we are creating by spraying everything at once.

Lately, people are blaming bad pruning for the uncontrollable insect infestations, especially in Levubu but Jaff believes that, while this does have a part to play, it is not the main cause of the issue.

The rewards of curating the land

Scouting: The spraying on this farm is initiated by scouting results only. No schedules or programmes are followed at all. This was largely due to a bad experience Jaff had, in Levubu many years ago, when he was following a spray programme with no scouting; they were using a chemical that claimed to have a 28-day residue. The farm’s factory results dropped from an average 32% sound kernel recovery (SKR) to between 9 and 14%. Cypermethrin, coming out of Asia, was very popular at that time and Jaff had been buying generic product. A friend at a local original manufacturer convinced him to send the asian product for testing – the results showed that there was very little to zero active ingredient in the ‘chemical’ at all. Before he knew it, the stink bug damage was so extensive and Jaff almost went bankrupt that year. He made two fundamental decisions after that; 1. No programme spraying 2. No generic chemicals. His SKR returned to normal levels as soon as these changes came into play.

  • Moths – MNB & FCM. Jaff sets traps for both, to monitor pressure which is usually low and tolerable. During the main flowering season (September and October) he is particularly cautious and sprays if levels rise even slightly. Previously Jaff was spraying about every 4 weeks but, since using the metarhizium, it has reduced significantly and he only sprayed twice last year.
  • Stink bugs – a multi-pronged and careful strategy. Jaff mixes immediate action spray mix and scouts 10 places on the farm every Monday early morning. This is done with a petrol motor-powered fogger which Jaff says looks like an automatic rifle. It dispenses a finer droplet than the mist-blower and it pushes the chemical higher up into the tree. All the insects that drop are collected into bottles and brought back to the office for identification and counting. If the numbers exceed tolerances then Jaff sprays the block around this scout point with the chemical that will be used across the whole farm. After waiting 6 hours to allow time for it to take effect, he does another count where they sprayed. These results show whether the chemical is effective or not. If there are not enough insects falling, he pauses to investigate the situation. If the second count is also high, he sprays across the farm. When Jaff first established this scouting method on his Levubu farm, he used aerial sprayers to apply the chemical and delivered the best factory results for the next 3 years. He believes the key was all around timing and placement. The whole farm was doused with chemical in 2,5 hours – from ABOVE, where the stink bugs are most common, EARLY in the morning when the stink bugs were still inactive. If the job was done with tractors, it would have taken 3 to 4 days. In those few days, considerable damage can be done by the stink bugs in the unsprayed orchards.

Aerial spraying services are not available in this area yet and, even if they were to move in, not knowing exactly when he is going to spray would make it difficult for a service provider to cater to. The competition in Levubu increased the options. So, for now, it’s up to the mist-blowers. Jaff says that it is essential that these rigs move SLOWLY through the orchard. Efficacy is dependent on the orchard air first being displaced and then the chemical penetrating deep into the tree. If the tractor moves too quickly, it will brush past without delivering the saturation required to be lethal. Jaff administers 2000 litres per hectare when spraying for stink bugs. All sprays happen at night. Jaff only had to spray twice last year.

Plain green bug and coconut bug (brown and green) are the usual stink bugs found here. Two-spots are less common. Jaff says the surrounding bush hosts a range of alternate delicacies for the stink bugs; luisboom (in KZN we call this bugweed or bonga bonga), castor oil bush and black jacks. All of these are common in KZN but obviously don’t taste as good as the macs.

Bat hotels are open for business throughout the farm. Jaff’s skyrises are well-occupied and the residents definitely help to control stink bug numbers. These 3-storey structures were built by Jaff 12 years ago and need to be upgraded soon. When Jaff does this he will also improve the design to make sure owls can’t use it as a perch. The bats tend to move out if too many owls spend too much time on their roofs, and who can blame them!!

  • Fungus: Jaff hasn’t had any blossom blight on this farm but seems to have gained all the experience he ever needed to in Levubu. He explains that the key to fighting blight is to correctly identify it before anything else. There are MANY different strains and the fungicides are strain-specific. You can waste money and precious time by spraying the wrong stuff.

Jaff says that the water here is heavily infested with Phytophthora and the indigenous fynbos hosts it. To combat this fungus Jaff adds hydrogen peroxide in all the water going into the irrigation system. The micro-jets effectively wet the stems which really helps keep them healthy. Farmers here need to be careful about mistaking chlorine burn for phytophthora as they can manifest similarly. Jaff thinks that the fungal pressure in this area is far less than what other areas face.

I couldn’t help but notice the scores of snails in the one orchard. Jaff explains that they breed in the kukuyu grass and then move up the trees, where they die. They don’t do damage at all but recent research suggests that they may be moving phytophthora into the trees.

  • Mammalian pests: Jaff explained that, during World War 2, wild boars were brought into the area, from Europe, and were kept in the Italian Prisoner of War camps. When the war ended, these pigs were released into the wild and bred with the local bushpigs. The result is that the “bushpigs” around here are now a very docile, spotted, hybrid variety. If it wasn’t for the porcupines, who lift the farms perimeter fences, these bushpigs wouldn’t be a problem but they follow the porcupines in and, between these two species, many nuts are lost. Thankfully there are no baboons in the area and the local monkeys far prefer the broccoli on the farm next door!

Area-specific Challenges

  • Soil and water quality: Because this area used to be sea floor (apparently … centuries ago), there are inherently high levels of sodium and chlorine in the soil. It has been suggested to Jaff that he simply leeches this out with excess water but he’s reluctant to do this for fear of losing every other element and mineral the soil holds. He has chosen instead to balance the levels as explained under Nutrition Management and tolerate a certain amount of leaf burn.
  • Research and advice: Being a new area, the existing research and information, compiled in other areas, is often irrelevant. As the number of macs in the Cape increases, the right bodies will need to focus more attention here. In the meantime, Jaff cautions that local farmers need to be discerning about what advice they heed; eg: processors might advise what cultivars to plant based on what their factories prefer, similarly, nurserymen may advise that you plant what they can graft easily etc etc. More independent specialists are needed and mac farmers need to do more homework of their own, BEFORE they buy, especially on the sub-surface situation, like:
    • Have the soil and water on the farm tested. Remember that soil pockets are common so do extensive testing, not just one spot.
    • Have the soil profile analysed – How deep is the soil? Where is the clay? Is there ‘coffee stone’? (this is a gravel-like layer found between the sand and clay) It plays an important role in drainage.


Harvest season, which starts in April and ends in August, sounds like a real celebration on this farm. It is a time of hard work but it’s enjoyable. Jaff prefers not to strip nuts from the trees so the harvesters gather mature nuts from the orchard floor. Sometimes, younger trees require stripping but they outgrow this in time. Ethapon is reserved exclusively for the Beaumonts. Frustrated with the slow-ripening nuts on the 814s, Jaff did try a diluted solution on them one year but they denied him even a single nut the following season so he’s not about to do that again! Using ethapon on the Beaumonts means that Jaff can fit these orchards into any gaps that open up in the harvest schedule and is the only reason he includes Beaumonts in his basket.

Every orchard is gathered up once a week. Unlike Levubu, torrential rains are rare and, even if it does rain overnight, the ground is generally dry enough in the morning so husk rot is not a factor.

Pruning starts in July with the final nuts being stripped from pruned branches if necessary.


When people travel 1700kms to work for someone every year you’ve got to understand that this is a great leader. Everyone who works here has followed Jaff from Limpopo, bar a few locals who have been inherited through farm purchases. But he never planned to have an ‘imported’ team; when he was first establishing this farm to macadamias, Jaff realised that he really needed people who knew what to do so he reached out to some of his key people who had been displaced when the land claims went through. They came to the Cape and helped Jaff get all the trees safely in the ground. Afterwards, some went home but a core team asked if they could stay, which Jaff was very happy about. When the trees came in to production Jaff found the locals painfully slow and asked if his Levubu staff wanted to go home and bring a harvesting team back to the Cape. They did this and it worked well so now, every Easter, his permanent people go home to Levubu, enjoy a week’s leave and then come back with a team of casuals who Jaff arranges temporary housing for. When the harvest is done, the casuals go back home. He always has more volunteers than he needs and his permanent guys constantly get requests to join the crew. Jaff has yet to find a Capetonian who can keep up with the Vendas and Shangaans.

Harvest days start as soon as the sun rises; 7am in April but only 7.30am from May onwards. The casuals are divided into teams, led by permanent staff. Each team is assigned an area in which they will stay for the whole harvest – this allows for a sense of ownership and accountability. Pace is left up to the individual teams but Jaff stays close and will allocate piece work if the standard is too low. At the end of every day, teams are congratulated or questioned depending on what Jaff observed during the day. Bonuses are paid at the end of the season to teams that performed well.


The nuts are collected into bags from the orchard floor. These are counted and recorded (no weighing) and brought to the processing plant, keeping cultivars separate. The nuts are placed into holding bins through which ambient air is blown overnight. Dehusking only happens after at least one night of drying in these holding bins. Sometimes the Beaumonts stay in the holding bins for a full day so that the stickiness typical in these nuts is reduced as much as possible. After dehusking, the nuts are sorted – immatures, moth damage and incompletely formed shells are the main issues. This waste is weighed so that it can be accounted for in the final figures.

The husks are blown into a heap outside the building. The combustion of this pile needs to be closely managed through regular water dousing. At the end of the season, the pile is turned and taken back into the orchards. Jaff prefers to use it in the avo orchards in case there is a “problem” (disease etc) lurking in the husks. The change in crop will hopefully minimise the risk without wasting the nutritious mulch material.

After sorting, the nuts are sized and dropped into 8 tonne drying bins where the fans will blow ambient air constantly for the first 36 hours. After that the fans only run from 9.30am to 4.30pm every day. It takes one to two weeks after the bin is full for the average moisture to have dropped to below 10%. Jaff believes that the best moisture content to transport nuts at is between 5 and 10% – at this level, kernel damage is minimised. There are 4 holding bins and 8 drying bins, each with individual fans. When Jaff has taken the farm to full capacity of 150 hectares and it is all in production, he estimates he will need another4 drying bins and perhaps another holding bin.

Jaff uses a trucking company to transport the nuts through to KZN or Mpumalanga. To Mpumalanga, the nuts are sent in bags, covered with the truck sail but, when sending to KZN, he has to use locked containers because of the crime prevalent on this route. Either way, it costs him about 70c/kg dry nut in shell.

At the end of the season Jaff summarises deliveries per cultivar and divides this number by the quantity of bags he harvested to establish the weight per orchard block.

This farm is consistently achieving an unsound kernel rate of less than 1%.

Because Jaff uses different processors, I was interested in whether the results were different. He confirmed that there is no significant difference in the weights, classes and recovery rates. Where the difference does come in is on the returns because some use average exchange rates over the period and others use the exchange rate at the time of sale. At the end of the day, over the years, it all balances out and becomes a case of swings and round abouts. Jaff enjoys spreading his harvest and keeping an eye on the balances.

Storage shed, attached to processing plant, which is one level below.

In the back right hand corner are the 4 holding bins, each with a capacity of 6 to 8 tonnes. The nuts are conveyed from these bins to the dehuskers and then the sorting tables. A conveyor (running alongside the staircase in the centre of the picture) then lifts the nuts up to the tumbler and then onto another conveyer that takes them to the drying bins, on the left of this picture.  

1: Conveyor belts leaving the holding bins. 2 & 3: Dehusking. 4: Blower unit that removes all the husks, sticks and leaves – the nuts move down to the sorting belts. 5: Sorting belts. 6: Conveyor taking the nuts up to the tumbler and drying bins. 7: Tumbler to size and exclude small nuts. 8: Storage bin.

Before these fans were installed (there are a few in the plant), the building was always dripping in condensation. But they solved the problem and the processing plant is now a cool, dry environment.

Industry Outlook

There were a few discussions that Jaff and I had during the day that didn’t fit under any of the usual topics. They’re mostly opinion pieces that I found to be too valuable to keep to myself:

Is South Africa going to run into a situation of oversupply, especially when all the new plantings come into production?

Short answer – no.

Long answer – South Africa has grown from 4th biggest mac producer globally, in the early 1990s, with macs being 3,5% of the world nut basket. Today we are the world’s largest producer of nuts but macs have shrunk to just over 1% of the world nut basket. Jaff uses these numbers to show that, globally and as a nut type, macadamias have so much room to grow. “If we keep farming at our current productivity rates of 3 tonnes per hectare, there simply isn’t enough suitable area left in the world to plant macs and risk oversupply. BUT, if we can improve on productivity, it might be a different story.” He goes on to remind us that the mac industry is still in baby shoes. He remembers when apples were yielding 10 tonnes per hectare; now, they’re getting 160 tonnes from the same hectare. “Avos?” raises Jaff, “they used to give 8 tonnes per hectare and now you can expect 30 tonnes from one hectare. Imagine the possibilities in macadamias when we are talking about a much bigger tree than an apple or an avo and we are only getting 3 tonnes per hectare.” Jaff goes on to encourage farmers to keep this in mind when planning spacing as one of the obvious ways we can improve productivity is through denser orchards. Jaff doesn’t believe the solution will come in the form of another cultivar. His strategy is in refining the way we MANAGE macadamia orchards. Not sure about you but the thrill of potential and the view through this visionary’s eyes was goosebump material!

But what about prices – will they crash?

“The prices will level out but not as a result of oversupply. I believe price is determined by the ability of people to buy,” continues Jaff, even though I am clearly several pegs below his level of global economic understanding, “Exchange rates are also more influential on the prices the farmer sees than international supply scenarios. Right now, the weak rand is beneficial. If it strengthens, mac farmers will bank less.” In anticipation of that possibility Jaff suggests mac farmers fortify themselves in two ways:

  1. How do we create a more sustainable industry?

The first has been touched on already – increase productivity. But there’s a very big proviso here – one that plays out in everyone’s lives, in multiple areas: do it in a sustainable way!! This is not a 5-year game, it’s a generational game … we have to employ long-term strategies or don’t bother. The other is a little trickier …

2. Work together

Jaff says, “The Australian industry is winning ground against us because their support network is stronger than ours.” In other words, our level of industry cooperation is far lower than it needs to be for us to maintain or improve our place in the industry. “Processors are starting to work together but the communication and collaboration needs to be far greater,” continues Jaff. He explains that so much of the world market is inaccessible to small farmers and that, if we organised ourselves and worked together, we could unlock those markets. In a ‘nutshell’ Jaff says, “SA nuts should be marketed as SA nuts – one group”.

Having spent time with over 50 macadamia farmers over the last 3 years, I can appreciate the ambition of that plan! There are just too many strong-minds and differing views BUT Jaff illustrates the importance that we start to think as one; “The current industry was born from the crash in the late 90s. It was further strengthened by the next downturn, in the mid-2000s. What became very clear was that the marketers had to do their work! It was easy to sell macs in the good times but they weren’t coping through the tough times. To be consistently successful they had to work differently – this meant sowing relationships and strengthening ties, supplementing income streams that would cushion market adjustments.” I could now see how much better the marketers could move our nuts if they had the volumes required to unlock those potential markets – to do this would require everyone’s nuts, not necessarily in one basket but on the same table. Jaff is definitely talking sense …

Langeberg in the background. Outiniqua begins to the right (east) of this range. Avo orchard on the facing slope. Ridged orchard, about to be planted, in the foreground.

And with that, I take my leave. I close the same way I opened; with gratitude that Jaff allowed us this priceless insight into this operation and experience. May you be blessed always!