The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
FULLY-FLEDGED production of pecan nuts, one of the country’s anticipated top foreign currency earning crops in Umguza District, Matabeleland North Province is expected to commence in 2025.
The pecan nut project at Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) Balu Pecan and Livestock Estate, which commenced in 2018 is expected to see 1 000 hectares being put under the deciduous tree in five years, making it one of the biggest such plantations in the world.
The Estate is a partnership between Kalimba Investments, a subsidiary of Surrey Abattoirs Private Limited and Arda.
Arda Balu general manager Dr Jeremy Hubert said although the early planted pecan nut trees are expected to start producing in the next three years full production was expected in 2025.
“We planted those trees in 2018 so they are about more than a year old now, I don’t think we will see many nuts till 2023, that’s when they will start coming and then by 2025, we should be moving into big production, that’s long term,” he said.
A total of 400 hectares with a tree population of 24 000 has been planted so far and bush clearance has already begun for the planting of 20 000 trees on 120 hectares this year.
Pecan nuts are becoming increasingly popular as a crunchy and nutritious snack. Pecans are one of the most popular edible nuts native to North America and Mexico. Pecan is a large deciduous tree belonging to the hickory family.
“We know the markets because of our partner who is in the pecan nut business already. We are establishing contacts with the South Africans who are exporting about 90 percent of their crop, so we are in touch with them and they are looking forward to our crop in terms of marketing.
“We can market directly for ourselves or through South Africa and at the moment the strongest markets are the Chinese, other Asian as well as the European markets. Looking at the price of this product, it’s actually still rising marginally, it’s telling you that there’s still a very strong market,” said Dr Hubert.
South Africa has about 40 000 hectares cropped under pecans with the international price of raw nuts averaging US$6 per kilogramme, but the retail price in South Africa is about US$37 per kilogramme. The investor is working on increasing the capacity of water at the Estate’s supply dam.
“We are raising the spillway and dam walls in order to try and increase the amount of water we can hold on the dam because water is a major element in Matabeleland and we are trying to maximise that resource,” said Dr Hubert.
The water requirements of a pecan tree are very high with a mature tree easily consuming 600 litres of water per day at the peak of summer.
Efforts to put up a fodder plantation to provide feed for cattle as well as to sell the surplus is already underway with the area to be cultivated having been cleared and the centre pivot irrigation system for irrigating the grass also having been installed.
“We are hoping to get that programme going this year. We are very keen to start our cattle operations. The programme (pecan nut tree) has expanded and requires sufficient funds to sustain the business in terms of operational costs, so we want to start up quite an extensive cattle production,” said Dr Hubert.
The Estate is also looking forward to introducing three tree species as a way of generating revenue to sustain its business operations prior to the commencement of its long-term flagship project.
“We are also trying three different plants and these are pomegranate, sweet mango and tea trees as well. We want to see which plant will grow well in our environment and also, we are looking at plants that will come into production quicker than the pecan tree and the main thing behind this drive is that we are trying to generate income because our operations are going to grow, every year we will be having more machinery and plants,” said Dr Hubert.