Macadamia farmers look to fruitful, rich New Year

Tuesday January 1 2019

macadamia factory

Workers at the macadamia factory cleaning and drying the nuts. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

GITONGA MARETE
By GITONGA MARETE
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Macadamia farmers in Nyeri, Embu and Meru counties expect a bumper harvest this year, boosted by good rains in the growing areas.

The prices are also expected to improve from the high of Sh200 a kilogramme when the season closed in September, said Charles Mwangi, a farmer in Nyeri.

“Last season was good but we expect prices to go beyond Sh200 a kilogramme next year due to increasing demand and farmers who have a good crop will have a long harvest period because of the staggered rains experienced this season,” said Mr Mwangi, who expects to harvest about 15 tonnes from 700 trees between February and June next year.

Due to growing demand, nut processors want county governments in the crop catchment areas to support ongoing efforts to double the current production by 2022 as farmers switch to the nut.

Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NutPAK) has put in place an initiative that will see the number of trees increased by one million from the current 2.5 million.

Create budget

The target is to have 10 million trees by 2022, enough to double the current production.

NutPAK has already carried out 15 of the 55 planned field days in macadamia growing counties during which seedlings are being distributed and information on good crop husbandry shared.

However, the association is concerned that county governments have not created a budget to support the crop despite a huge number of farmers embracing it.

“We expect the government to support the processors in the ongoing efforts to register farmers in the country and also carry out tree census,” Mr Charles Muigai NutPAK chief executive officer said.

With the entry of the China as a producer in the recent times, there is need for the government to offer full support to allow Kenya safeguard its market, Mr Muigai said.

Unlike in Kenya, macadamia production in China is a government-supported initiative and the country projects to produce 100,000 tonnes by 2025, according to the statistics presented at the Macadamia Symposium in China held recently in which Kenya sent a delegation.

Traditional market

There is danger of China eating into Kenya’s traditional market with cheaper nuts, according to NutPAK.

The ban on export of in-shell macadamia has paid huge dividends from national annual crop production of 11,000 tonnes per year in 2009 and four processors to over 45,000 tonnes and 30 processors, according to Muigai.

Anticipating increased production in the next five years, processors have created an installed processing capacity of 90,000 tonnes and are currently operating at 50 percent.

The targeted areas for production are non-traditional counties such as Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nandi counties as the next frontier of growth in line with the Big Four Agenda, Mr Nderitu said.

The demand for increasing production of nut is fuelled by attractive farm gate prices that hit the Sh200 mark a kilogramme at the close of the last season in August, which has made the crop so lucrative that there is rampant theft of nuts when they are ripe for harvesting in Central region.

Macadamia constitutes only two percent of tree nuts in the world, which makes the global market sustainable.

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