Closer macadamia industry collaboration and coordination with government is needed to ascertain competitive global position

South Africa’s competitive advantage could be under threat due to lack of collaboration across the macadamia industry at all levels, along with little effective support from government to ensure growth and new market access as the global leader.


South Africa’s macadamia industry is, together with Australia, the most sophisticated in the world. It is also the largest producer globally. This is a globally competitive space and we are excelling in our endeavours.

“For the long term, as an industry we are not leveraging our reputation and premium supplier status in the global macadamia market as strategically as possible. In recent years, we have ridden a wave of insatiable demand. Global macadamia supply continues to increase rapidly and opportunity for growth in this industry still remains favourable, albeit increasingly competitive. However, the type of demand will mature into new markets and more enlightened consumer needs. We need to sharpen our perspective and mindset as growers and industry partners to more aggressive forward thinking, with a mindset for where global growth lies to meet our growing supply. Our biggest future challenge is market access and diversification,” said Mark Hassenkamp, director of Red Sun Hortitech, a Samac-accredited macadamia nursery.

“Proactive industry body coordination and government collaboration is integral to ensure the standard is set for the industry’s future. Together with leading quality assurance and compliance standards, Australia leads the way in its beneficial bilateral trade and import tariff agreements with key territories around the world. We need to accelerate our efforts to follow suit, to remain in the top spot, too.
“The last few years have been profitable for all involved in the macadamia industry. A large part of South Africa’s focus is on the Chinese market (the estimate is that roughly half our crops land there).

With China’s projected growth in their domestic crop, alongside a doubling of global supply in the next 10 years, new market access is more important than ever. There are exciting new opportunities within our existing markets.

“We are driving into a surprisingly strong and growing trend of plant-based eating. Society is adjusting to sustainability, affordability and health awareness – and it’s here to stay. With an ongoing advancement in clean-sourced and natural food demand, our future opportunities exist with informed, educated buyers, retailers and consumers, who have discretionary spending capability. To protect and grow our industry, we have to behave as a premium producer. This includes meeting food safety, quality assurance, sustainability and traceability standards through the value chain – from sustainable propagation of our crop through to the entire supply chain,” continued Hassenkamp.

“Red Sun Hortitech undergoes its annual GlobalGap accreditation in March. This standard is measured against a number of criteria, including responsible chemical use, inclusive labour standards and sustainable practices, to be competitive and improve quality. The business focuses on promoting cohesion in the workplace through staff equity programmes. It also supports rural community development initiatives, youth skills development and training activities.

“The business started out seven years ago with the future in mind by planning and implementing best practices to meet future competitive standards of sustainability, inclusiveness, integration and transformation. Their management and audit process promote the 17 UN sustainability goals, for example, minimising synthetic chemical use and developing water-efficient technology solutions that must improve year on year. Additionally, focus is dedicated to using affordable, clean energy and efficient infrastructure innovations. This, together with improved genetics and microbiology solutions, propagates quality, high-performance trees in the field.

“This level of differentiation – including productivity, traceability, consistency and reliability at each stage of the macadamia value chain in South Africa – is imperative. Any future risk of a customer product recall is devastating. Committing as an industry to export a predictable, sustainable, safe nut source in a competitive market is everything. Implicit in not getting it right is that the reputation of South Africa’s macadamias could fall foul into those of less-developed markets that offer poorer quality product at present.

“Discussion around food innovation and changing consumption trends alongside continued population growth remains at the forefront. The macadamia market’s customers are going to ask more and more questions around where their food comes from and how it has been produced. They are strong lobbyists and also our greatest critics. Being prepared in the face of exponential growth in crop supply means innovating, planning and investing into the future market we see five years from now. To achieve this, we need to collaborate closely as an industry together with government’s support to make our existing market bigger,” concluded Hassenkamp.

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