Tree nuts reach record high prices across global markets

‘We have seen a 25% increase in the value of tree nuts between 2013 and 2014. The value of this industry stands at US$33,7 billion’ – Goretti Guasch, executive director of the International Dried Fruit and Nut Congress.

Anita Gould/

The demand for tree nuts and macadamias in particular is showing no signs of slowing down. Delegates at this year’s International Dried Fruit and Nut Congress (INC) held in Turkey from 22 – 24 May were of the opinion that tree nut prices had reached an unprecedented level. But demand from health conscious consumers meant that the ceiling on prices had not yet been reached.

Goretti Guasch, executive director of the INC, said that nuts and dried fruit are considered to be the healthiest snack and make a major contribution to the treatment and prevention of disorders like obesity, diabetes and cancer. “We have seen a 25% increase in the value of tree nuts between 2013 and 2014. The value of this industry stands at US$33,7 billion. Dried fruit showed a 5% increase and stands at US$7,4 billion globally.”

The congress attracted close to 1 000 delegates from around the world. Reports from the various sectors indicated that kernel prices for macadamia nuts are averaging US$18/kg while hazelnuts fetch just over US$14/kg and pistachios US$11/kg. Almonds and walnuts will cost you just over US$10/kg, brazil nuts and cashews just over US$8/kg.

The macadamia market is experiencing much tension as buyers are all vying for the lion’s share of available stock as competition tightens between the Asian nut in shell (NIS) market and the Western kernel market.

The world’s two biggest macadamia producers, South Africa and Australia are expected to export 40% – 50% of their crop as NIS to Asia this year.

Speaking at the conference, Alan Sutton, chairman of the Valley Macadamias Group in South Africa, said that although certain European markets have slowed down due to the recession, chocolate manufacturers have been immune to the high prices as they simply can’t start excluding nuts from their products.

“The Japanese market is somewhat deterred by the higher prices but they have indicated that research on the health benefits of macadamias would go a long way to diffuse the resistance.”

Jolyon Burnett, chairperson of the Australian Macadamia Society, said that their research had shown that Australians perceive products that contain macadamias to be of premium value. “They are willing to pay much more for products that contain macadamias.”


South Africa currently produces nearly 47 000 t of macadamia nuts. This is an increase from 45 000 t the previous year. The closest competitor is Australia with a crop of 44 000 t and Kenya with 22 000 t.

Sutton predicts that the South African macadamia crop will double during the next five years. “By 2017 it should stand at 74 000 t considering that around one thousand additional hectares are planted each year. With strengthening demand for both kernel and NIS there is great scope for growth in this industry.”

Burnett noted that Australian farmers were not increasing their orchards at the speed of the South Africans. “We have only added 1 500 ha over the last five years as land values are too high. We expect any growth in our industry to come from yield improvements as we are investing in better cultivars and better crop protection chemicals. However I don’t foresee our crop ever going beyond 55 000 t.”

While previously there was concern that Chinese macadamia plantings could eliminate the need for imports, it emerged at the INC that the orchards are not doing as well as was hoped for.

Chen Ying, from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce noted that the Chinese were having many problems in growing their own macadamias and did not see that imports would decline in the immediate future.

“China should be seeing a yield of 50 000 t by 2020 from the trees that are currently in the ground. We currently produce 8 000 t and import a further 15 000 t from Australia and about 24 000 t from South Africa,” said Ying.

Burnett said that if the market is treated properly China’s consumption could reach 150 000 t. “But they won’t put up with bad quality nuts so the market needs to supply them with quality produce.”

South Africa could however still be stripped of its title as the world’s biggest macadamia supplier by Vietnam. Burnett commented that Vietnam imported 30 t of seed nut last year from Australia with the help of government subsidies. “This should produce thousands of hectares, which necessitates further market development to ensure that the demand stays steady.”

Valley Macadamias was well represented at the INC by Sutton and Roelof van Rooyen, director at Alkmaar Valley Macadamias which forms part of the Valley Macadamias Group. Comments from both the kernel and NIS markets were very positive and further contracts have been signed to supply a wide range of markets for the next year.