Prieska is a relatively small town located on the south bank of the Orange River
approximately 130 km downstream of the Orange/Vaal confluence. The town relies
heavily on agriculture most of which is supported by irrigation water pumped directly from
the Orange River.
Prieska was originally famous for the mining of Tiger's Eye - a semi-precious stone
formed from asbestos. The area is the world's largest supplier of this popular stone
which is still mined commercially.
Approximately 6 850 ha of irrigation take place between the Orange/Vaal confluence and
Boegoeberg Dam, most of which is used for field crops such as maize and wheat.
The area has recently been identified as one of the most suitable areas in
the world for certain high value crops such as pistachios, olives, figs and pecans.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) is currently engaged in the development of
a major pistachio plantation at Prieska together with Green Valley Nuts - a commercial
venture (Pretoria News; Nov 14, 1997). The project was first suggested in the early
1990's and experimental plantations were established at various locations around South
Africa. The IDC chose Prieska because of its hot, dry summers, plentiful water from
the Orange River, cold winters, and good soils for orchard plantations.
Click on image for full size photo
It is anticipated that by the year 2000 the 1 000 ha plantation will supply
pistachio nuts to Europe and the Far East where current prices (1998) are in the order of
R15 000 to R18 000 per ton. Based on a conservative estimate of 3 tonnes per hectare
(in California yields of 7 tonnes are achieved), each hectare of pistachios will yield
approximately R50 000 per annum which is well above the yields achieved by most other
The IDC hope to encourage other farmers in the area to develop a substantial local
industry in the area once the required processing infrastructure and marketing channels
have been established. This is in line with the government policy to encourage more
efficient use of Orange River water by concentrating on high value crops which use
relatively little water compared to the more traditional field crops such as maize and
wheat which tend to use more water and provide less income and job opportunities.