Why Are Macadamia Nuts So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

At the mention of macadamia nuts, most people think of fancy desserts in high-end restaurants, luscious-looking nuts in packaging, and jaw-dropping price tags.

While macadamia nuts are undoubtedly worth the hefty sum they come in, one cannot help but wonder how they have become the most expensive nut in the world. Here is what I found!

Why Are Macadamia Nuts So Expensive?

Macadamia nuts are expensive mainly because only two species of macadamia trees produce them. These trees need to grow in environments similar to where other high-demand crops grow. Alongside the difficulty of producing macadamia nuts, the demand for macadamia nuts is also increasing, and the current supply cannot keep up.

To learn more about what makes macadamia nuts so expensive, from the strains of trees to the expenses of harvesting, keep reading!

1. Macadamia Nuts Are In High Demand

Demands for macadamia nuts exceed supplies by around 8% yearly, which is expected to increase in the coming years steadily.

Generally, when demands eclipse current supplies, prices skyrocket, and macadamia nuts are no exception.

Who can blame consumers? After all, macadamia nuts are the perfect treat. Crispy on the outside and buttery on the inside, macadamia nuts barely need enhancing to be satisfactory.

Moreover, macadamia nuts are known for having nutritious fats. As such, even people on ketogenic diets can indulge without straying from their goals or feeling guilty.

2. Only 2 Out Of 10 Macadamia Trees Can Be Harvested

If the demands for macadamia nuts are increasing, why do supplies dwindle? This does not seem to make sense, especially since there are ten species of macadamia trees.

However, of those ten species, only two actually produce macadamia nuts, namely the Macadamia tetraphylla and the Macadamia integrifolia.

Further, apart from germinating these two species of macadamia trees, producers also need to cultivate these trees and make sure that they are fit for flower-bearing.

So, when you consider the factors involved in nurturing macadamia trees, like finding the ideal environment and waiting for the trees to grow, there is no wonder supplies are so low.

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3. There Aren’t Enough Macadamia Trees

If enough macadamia trees are planted over time, won’t there be enough to meet the global demand for macadamia nuts? Technically, yes, but it is not that simple.

That said, macadamia trees grow only in limited environments.

In fact, macadamia trees are so delicate that few places worldwide meet the agro-ecological requirements of macadamia trees.

Further, some of these places include Queensland, Australia, where macadamia trees originated, and Hawaii, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, and California.

Lastly, to make matters worse, macadamia trees don’t grow just anywhere in those countries.

For example, macadamia trees need to have high rainfall, high altitudes, and temperate climates.

4. Macadamia Trees Have To Compete With Other Crops

Securing the ideal environment for macadamia trees is a growing concern because these environments attract a multitude of other crops like coffee, avocados, and tropical fruits.

Therefore, competing for land with coffee alone is tough, given the bigger demand for coffee beans worldwide. Moreover, coffee demand is expected to increase by 5% annually.

So, when you factor in the other crops with the same agroecological needs as macadamia trees, it isn’t difficult to understand why macadamia trees don’t meet demands.

5. Securing Land For Macadamia Trees Is Becoming Harder

Macadamia trees are competing not only with crops but also with developers and tourists. If you think about it, the places where macadamia trees grow are popular tourist spots.

Hawaii alone, where the majority of the world’s macadamia nuts come from today, is brimming with tourists all-year-round, which can increase the value of the land.

When outbid, securing land for macadamia nuts can be extremely difficult and expensive. As a result, macadamia nuts become scarce and therefore costly.

6. Macadamia Nuts Require Manual Harvesting

6. Macadamia Nuts Require Manual Harvesting

Macadamia nuts are pretty delicate. As such, most producers of macadamia nuts harvest them by hand.

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Given the demands for macadamia nuts, it is fair to say that the harvesting process goes at a snail’s pace, especially if you consider the automation technology of modern times.

However, handpicking is crucial in maintaining the quality of the macadamia nuts.

While some automation helps, the quantity will never justify the quality that most consumers expect.

Furthermore, this handpicking process happens only five to six times annually, so it seems that with macadamia nuts, everything takes time to happen.

7. Macadamias Are Harvested Prematurely

Did you know that macadamia nuts come in tough shells? Because of these shells, harvesters have a difficult time determining the ripeness of a macadamia nut.

Moreover, macadamia nuts can ripen at different paces, mainly due to environmental factors like location and season. On some occasions, macadamia nuts even drop prematurely.

When a macadamia nut is premature, it still has not developed the oils that the nuts are known for. Ripening macadamia nuts, too, are difficult when already deshelled.

8. The Nuts Get Damaged Easily In Processing

Shelling macadamia nuts further complicates getting the macadamia nuts to the market. In fact, less than 50% of shelled macadamia nuts end up whole after processing.

Therefore, companies will likely suffer big losses since the macadamia nuts that get fully processed and sold are far less than the total amount of macadamia nuts harvested.

That is, unless they make up for it by increasing the price tag attached to the macadamia nuts.

9. High Entry Point To Processing Macadamias

Companies invest huge amounts of money to harvest, shell, and process macadamia nuts until the macadamia nuts are suitable for selling.

As previously mentioned, even cracking the shell of macadamia nuts requires more power than a traditional nutcracker can handle.

Today, companies use special machines to achieve this. However, even these efforts can still result in damaged macadamia nuts.

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Also, companies are spending hefty sums to make the entire process more accurate and efficient because of the precautions that need to be taken to handle macadamia nuts.

Further, with more machines and technicalities involved, the higher the macadamia nuts are priced to make the business profitable.

10. New Markets

Small businesses and local farmers cannot keep up with the industrial-scale production of macadamia nuts. As such, they have created new markets for their harvest.

That said, these new markets are prominent in East Asia and are called nut in shell (NIS) markets. As the name implies, the macadamia nuts are sold shelled and unprocessed.

Mainly, the shells are incised to reveal the nut, boiled in salted water, and sold.

Further, with the rise of the NIS market comes the reduced supply of macadamia nuts to the mainstream market.

11. Tariffs And Other Technicalities

Depending on where you live, macadamia nuts can be cheaper or more expensive than in other markets. Generally, this is because of tariffs imposed by governments.

Therefore, if your government places high tariffs on imported goods like macadamia nuts, you can expect that the macadamia nuts will be much more pricey.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why nuts are so expensive, why chocolate is so expensive, and why saffron is so expensive.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why macadamia nuts are expensive, and most of their reasons revolve around the complexity of growing, harvesting, and processing them.

Additionally, demands for macadamia nuts are increasing annually, and the supply cannot keep up. As such, it is only natural that macadamia nuts are more expensive than other nuts.

Author

  • Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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