Marvellous macadamia make money for Zim farmers

Since the inception of the lucrative macadamia production in Zimbabwe around the year 2000, a significant number of both commercial and smallholder farmers continue to venture into macadamia farming in Chipinge area, where the crop enjoys excellent growing conditions.

Bart Kotze, Waterfalls Farm manager, shows off his macadamia crop.
Bart Kotze, Waterfalls Farm manager, shows off his macadamia crop.

Macadamia, a native to the eastern coast of Australia, thrives in sunny and humid weather conditions. The crop, also known as the Queensland nut, is also grown in Chimanimani, Marondera and Nyanga.

Located on a hill along the Chipinge–Chimanimani highway, Waterfalls Farm is one of the commercial farms in the area renowned for producing high-quality macadamia.

“As part of our comprehensive diversification plan launched in 2005, land under cultivation has grown from 30 hectares to 320 hectares of macadamias, from nothing to 74 hectares of avocadosfrom nothing to 400 hectares of maize, and coffee has been constant at 200 hectares. More continued growth is planned for macadamias,” said Bart Kotze, who manages the farm.

Kotze pointed out that, unlike other farms which exported roasted and processed macadamia, Waterfalls shipped the nuts in shells, primarily to China and South Africa where the products were in high demand.

Kotze explained that a fully-grown macadamia tree produced about 100kg of nuts a season. A tonne of dehusked nuts fetched between $2,000 and $3,000 depending on the grade. Good quality macadamia crops could earn a farmer up to $7,000 a hectare.

“Leaving the husk on for more than two days causes mould and increases processing time, as the husk tends to harden,” said Kotze. “After de-husking, the nuts must be carefully sorted for size and quality. They must be air–dried in the shade for at least two weeks. During the drying process, the moisture content of the nut is reduced and it becomes firm.”

Close to 200 commercial and smallscale farmers are in macadamia production in Zimbabwe.

“Macadamia production started here around 2000 in the eastern highlands. It can also be grown in agro-ecological regions one to three. The crop can be more viable and profitable than cash crops such as tobacco,” said Lazarus Dhliwayo, the technical advisor of the Macadamia Growers’ Association of Zimbabwe.

Macadamia trees start life as nursery-sown nuts. When they reach about 30cm, the seedlings are lifted and planted in the field at a spacing of three metres. The seedlings grow into a four-metre tree in five years and start to bear fruit. They remain productive for around 30 years.

The nuts ripen in about 10 months and picking is done around March and April.

The nuts can be processed into soap, body lotions and cosmetics. Macadamia kernels are sold as snacks and as a cooking ingredient. Even the shells are useful as mulch, fuel for processing macadamia nuts, for plastic manufacture and as a substitute for sand in the sand–blasting process.

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