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China Fuels South Africa’s Macadamia Exports

April 01, 2023

While in most Western countries demand for macadamia nuts dipped slightly last year, in China it was on the rise. China’s share of South African macadamia exports in terms of value increased from 28% in 2021 to 40% in 2022, making China the number one importer of this product last year.

In fact, over the past 10 years, the main destination for South African macadamias has alternated between the United States and China, with Europe following close behind. Last year, however, the market shares for the United States and Europe shrank from 31% to 29% and from 22% to 19%, respectively, compared with 2021. These decreases were mainly attributable to lower consumer purchasing power, whereas higher living costs had less impact in China, where the demand for macadamias comes mostly from high-income households.

In 2022, China imported 22,902 metric tons of South African in-shell macadamias worth 662 million Chinese yuan ($96.4 million) along with 630 metric tons of kernels worth 62.9 million yuan ($9.2 million), according to data from China Customs.

Fueled by this Chinese consumption, South Africa was able to sell the majority of last year’s crop and clear out storage capacity for the season ahead, as the harvest starts next month. Compared with other nut-producing countries, which are facing storage space shortages owing to low sales in 2022, South Africa had a bountiful year in terms of exports, even though macadamias are considered the most expensive among commercial nuts and typically sell at three to four times the retail price of almonds. Last year, South Africa set its second-highest record in terms of export volume, namely, 21,555 metric tons on a kernel basis, slightly behind the 23,043 metric tons exported in 2019. In terms of value, these exports raised $277 million in revenue, which was the fourth-highest result in recent years as a result of lower prices on export markets.

With respect to production, the industry association Macadamias South Africa (SAMAC) recently estimated that the 2022 crop reached 70,139 metric tons of in-shell nuts or 22,444 metric tons of kernels. This represents a 31.5% increase from the 2021 output, which was possible as a result of favorable weather conditions and an increase in the number of bearing trees. Considering that South Africa once again expanded its macadamia planting areas in 2022 and growers observed good rains during the flowering and nut-fill phases, this year’s crop is set to reach even higher volumes.

Notably, China has also been continuously increasing its macadamia production, with the domestic supply having almost doubled from 32,500 metric tons in 2021/22 to 62,500 metric tons in 2022/23 on an in-shell basis. At present, most of China’s macadamia-growing areas are located in Yunnan province, with a smaller production acreage in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. According to Chen Yuxiu of the Yunnan Macadamia Society, even though the domestic supply is growing, China’s macadamia market is still heavily reliant on imports, with locally grown nuts accounting for only 10% of consumption.

Apart from South Africa, China imports macadamias from Australia, another major producer. Between October 2021 and September 2022, China imported a total of 1,281 metric tons of Australian macadamia kernels, becoming the country’s second-largest export market after Japan.

Images: Pexels (main image), South African Revenue Service (body images)

This article was translated from Chinese. Read the original article.

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