Stakeholders in Kenya's nut sector have warned farmers and the general public to watch out for fake macadamia seedlings being sold in the country as demand for the crop continues to soar due to high farm gate prices.
The price of macadamia nuts reached Sh200 a kilo at the close of the last harvesting season in September, placing it among the most lucrative crops in the country.
The spike in the nut's value has seen many farmers rushing to plant more trees.
However, unscrupulous traders in Nyeri, Meru and Embu counties are reportedly exploiting the increased demand by supplying uncertified seedlings to farmers that go for between Sh300 and Sh400 each.
Nuts Processors Association of Kenya (NutPAK) chief executive officer Charles Muigai said they are selling the seedlings at Sh250, and asked farmers to be wary of traders who were selling them fake seeds at exorbitant prices.
“Some of the seedlings take too long to mature but if you get certified ones, they take between two and three years,” he said.
Players in the sector are in a rush to scale up production after reports that China has stepped up efforts to increase production from the current 25,000 tonnes to 100,000 by 2025. The Asian country has already assisted farmers to plant 10 million trees.
According to Mr Muigai, there is serious need for both the county and national governments to support the sector, which is export-oriented, for it to remain competitive and safeguard its market.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) will supply at least three million seedlings to farmers in an attempt to scale up production from the current 41,000 tonnes to about 61,000 in the next five years, said Richard Ndegwa, Interim Head of the Nut and Oil Crops Directorate at AFA.
This will be achieved by increasing acreage under the crop from the current 16,153 to 41,340 hectares with a target in non-traditional macadamia producing areas such as Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nandi counties.
“We will collaborate with the Kenya Agricultural Research Organization (KALRO), county governments and cooperatives among other stakeholders. We also encourage farmers to buy seedlings from processors who have set up nurseries,” Mr Ndegwa said.
AFA is also working with farmers through the Macadamia Growers Association of Kenya and the county governments to create marketing clusters. This is aimed at increasing the availability of the seedlings and to protect farmers from exploitation by brokers.
“We are urging the processors to have contract with the farmers since we are advocating for self-regulation of the industry,” he added.