Pecan nuts: Interview with Piet Botma, SAPPA regional director and pecan nut farmer at Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts, Wolmaransstad (Part 1)

Caption: Farm General Manager, Piet Botma with a handful of pecan nuts of Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts (Makwassispruit Enterprises) near Wolmaransstad.

In this article we interview our very own Piet Botma, South African Pecan Nut Producers’ Association (SAPPA) regional director for region 7[1] and principle pecan nut farmer at Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts in Wolmaranstad.

In August 2005 Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts (ed. member of Makwassiespruit Enterprises and the Firth Group) planted its first 200 nut trees with another 2000 trees the following year and 2300 additional trees the year thereafter. August 2010 saw 5500 trees take root.

This article is the first in a two-part series. In this first part, Piet Botma answers questions relating to SAPPA. In our next newsletter, part 2 of the series will offer in-depth interesting information and details about our own pecan nut farming business, better-known as Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts.

Briefly provide the reader with an overview of the South African pecan nut industry.

Year-on-year, the South African pecan nut industry is growing. Two years ago, SA ‘crops’ yielded roughly 13000 tons. It is anticipated that, for 2019, this yield or ‘harvest’ is expected to grow to 19000 tons. New pecan nut nurseries are continuously being cultivated. However, pecan nut trees take up to 5 years to yield any nuts. Therefore the market will only experience growth in several years yet to come.

Briefly tell the reader more about the South African Pecan Nut Producers Association’s (SAPPA’s) board of directors and how levies in the pecan nut industry are used to further the best interests of all players in the pecan nut industry?

In South Africa, the South African Pecan Nut Association (SAPPA) has been divided into 9 regions. Each region is represented by a Director who serves as the link between the pecan nut producers (i.e. the pecan nut farmers) and SAPPA. Additionally, producers, as well as the nurseries represent SAPPA through sub-committees. A statuary levy is imposed on the supply of all pecan nuts. Currently, the levy amount is set at 35c for every kilogram of nuts supplied—which will increase to 40c/kg by 2022. SAPPA allocates funds generated from the levy in various ways: such as making money available to conduct research pertaining to tree and nut pests and diseases. Research is also conducted on the methods and products used to fertilize and spray the trees and nuts. Funds might also be used to aid with the analysis of markets and complement the interests of the nut producers.

What role does education play within the pecan nut industry?

Supplying sub-standard nut products can damage the industry significantly. Therefore, education and training in the pecan nut industry is key. Regular training sessions for new entrants to the markets are facilitated by SAPPA. SAPPA plays a key role in regulation and management of the industry—for example, giving due attention and regulation to exportation standards.

What kinds of topics are covered for new entrants to SAPPA and the pecan nut industry?

A regular course is facilitated for new entrants. The most recent session was hosted at the Cullinan Diamond Lodge in Cullinan, Pretoria on 16 and 17 April 2019. Topics covered during two day programme included, for example: the history of the Pecan Nut industry in SA; the establishment, role and activities of SAPPA; soil requirements; pecan varieties in South Africa; orchard design (preparation for sunlight management and care for newly planted trees); soil and leaf sampling; plant material; soil health; planting hole preparation and planting procedures; orchard floor management and weed control; training young pecan nut trees; and principals of irrigation in the cultivation of pecans. Practical sessions are also facilitated. For example, a visit to an orchard where soil and leaf sampling and profile pit inspections are demonstrated.[2]

Tell the reader about the role you fulfil as a regional board director?

As a regional board director, I attend board meetings twice a year. At these meetings, financial matters are discussed, research projects identified, and general decisions regarding nurseries and the pecan nut industry as a whole are discussed and made. Each regional director facilitates about two further (regional) meetings per year. During these regional meetings, pecan nut farming equipment is often available on display and demonstration.

Please tell the reader about how much you enjoy serving on the SAPPA board?

As a Director on the SAPPA board I gain significant first-hand insight and knowledge about the South African pecan nut industry. This affords me the excellent opportunity to make a difference in the direction the pecan nut industry is currently moving.

For me, it is of key importance that Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts is represented on all levels. Board meetings provide opportunities to connect with and share ideas with industry leaders.

Tell the reader what we can expect to find out more in the follow-on second article: more about the Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts farming operations and some of its unique farming challenges?

Most of our challenges are based on how well we manage several aspects: water and irrigation, fertilizer programme, soil and tree nutrients, trees, birds, and leaf and water management.

Ed. Watch this space for the in-depth second part to this article which will feature details about the Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts farming operation and the challenges Piet Botma alludes to in the final question answered (above). 

Sources/references:

[1] For details about various SAPPA regions, visit: https://www.sappa.za.org/directors-staff-and-regions/

[2] Source: https://www.sappa.za.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/2019/03/SAPPA-Course-program-2019.pdf

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Piet with pecans in hand2

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