The tree nut production industry is expected to grow to US$103 billion in 2027 according to a report from Intrado GlobeNewswire, 2020.
It is mind boggling to find the roots of this industry that is growing so fast.
Originally wild nuts were sourced for sustenance. A recent archaeological excavation in Israel found remnants of seven types of nuts and a variety of primitive nutcrackers dating back to 780 000 years ago. Moreover, dig in Iraq uncovered evidence of nut consumption that dates to 50 000 B.C. and in Texas, pecan shells were unearthed near human artefacts that may date back to 6 000 BC.
Among the nuts covered so far, macadamias, pine nuts and Brazil nuts are the least popular in terms of production, but they are steadily increasing in the markets.
The ideal temperature for macadamias is between 16 and 25 °C. Although the trees can survive when temperatures drop below 3 °C, they should not be regarded as frost-resistant. Height above sea level influences nut quality and production. Production declines dramatically above 600 m.
Tree densities are either medium or high density with medium densities at 7 x 3 m (476 trees/ha) and high density at 5 x 2 m (1 000 trees/ha). Such tree populations produce nut yields of 7,6 to 16 metric tonnes. Countries that produce macadamia nuts in Africa include Swaziland, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
Trees are likely to bear a small crop in the fifth year after planting and will reach full production in 12 to 15 years.
Macadamia nuts are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and healthy fats. Their potential benefits include weight loss, improved gut health, and protection against diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.
Pine nut trees are fairly robust, able to withstand times of drought and high temperatures. It grows well between temperatures of -10 to 40 °C. It can also resist frost with temperature values down to -20 degrees depending on the age of the tree.
It is found both in continental climates and in areas with a coastal climate. Although it can grow in clay and limestone soil it has a great preference for soils with an acidic pH and a sandier texture. Pine nut trees do not tolerate waterlogging. Soils that are easily puddled with irrigation or rainwater can cause serious root problems.
South Africa is one of the major producers in Africa.
Tree densities can be around 350 trees per hectare to yield about 1,75 to 5,25 tonnes. Pine trees will start producing in 6 to 10 years.
Pine nuts are much-loved buttery treats in winter with the goodness of heart-friendly fats and minerals. They are recommendable for weight loss and weight management, glycaemic control, brain, and heart health, and they are rich in magnesium. They are also good for eyesight and bone health.
Brazil nuts grow well in lowland humid tropical regions up to altitudes of 500 m, with rainfall of 2 000 to 3 000 mm per year, daily temperatures of 27 to 32 °C and humidity of 80 to 90%. A substantial dry season is necessary to induce flower formation. In Africa, they are produced in South Africa, the Ivory Coast, Cote d’Ivoire and Gambia.
Tree density is usually around 100 trees per hectare yielding 4,8 metric tonnes after about 12 years.
Brazil nuts have several antioxidants, including vitamin E and phenols.
Antioxidants can help to fight free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. Lowering inflammation can help to reduce your risk of various health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Some of the challenges the tree nut production industry faces are labour standards, climate change, low yields, accounting for environmental and social costs, and transparency.
Workers in some regions process nuts at home thus monitoring safety and hours worked is difficult. According to The Guardian in India, women working in cashew production in India earned 30 p a day and were exposed to smoke and the nut’s corrosive oil.
Unpredictable seasons, increased temperatures, frost, and extended drought periods have been disrupting consistent nut supply in Africa. Low yields also stem from the low investment into training and production resources. The lack of collective organisation of nut farmers also denies them the potential to obtain the optimum price for their product.
Accounting for the environmental and social costs is heavily influenced by the private sector which usually determines the final price of nuts, a price which oscillates significantly, affecting new and small producers. Furthermore, when it comes to pricing, there are lot of middlemen involved in the purchase of nuts that tend to undervalue produce prices and rob some farmers of their hard-earned money.
A transparent liaison of farmers, producers, governments, corresponding research and development bodies, and the non-governmental sector would immensely stabilise the nut tree production value chain as they can set standards and sterner regulations to create a progressive and unified playing field for industry participants.
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Emilio, R. (2010) Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Available at:
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Boon, J. K. (2022) Nut production and exports grow worldwide. Available at: https://www.freshplaza.com/north-america/article/9393377/nut-production-and-exports-growworldwide/#:~:text=Across%20the%20globe%2C%20more%20nuts,most%20important%20of%20these%20nuts. (Accessed: 4 August 2022)
Agricultural Marketing Resource Centre. Available at: https://www.agmrc.org (Accessed: 4 August 2022)