KENYA – Macadamia farmers in Kenya have witnessed a remarkable surge in produce demand with prices increasing threefold, offering a lifeline to those once grappling with meager earnings.

The improved payment, ranging from KES 100 (USD 0.69) to KES 130 (USD 0.90) per kilogram, represents a significant leap from the KES 30 (USD 0.21) per kilogram received just a year ago.

This positive shift comes after a tumultuous period when American and European markets rejected macadamia nuts, citing economic challenges.

The rejection prompted a search for alternative markets, with China emerging as a key player willing to embrace raw nuts.

The catalyst for this resurgence was the suspension of section 43 of the Agricultural and Food Authority (AFA) Act in November of the previous year.

This section had previously outlawed the export of in-shell macadamia nuts, hindering farmers from capitalizing on potential markets.

Kirinyaga Senator James Murango played a pivotal role in pushing for the suspension, highlighting the adverse impact the ban had on farmers.

He noted, “For all that time, since the ban was imposed, farmers have gotten nothing. In fact, they have uprooted macadamia trees.”

Murango and other lawmakers argued that the ban had allowed unscrupulous brokers to exploit farmers, leading to substantial financial losses for the agricultural community.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi responded to the outcry from growers and suspended the AFA Act for 12 months, opening the door for the export of raw macadamia nuts.

The Nut Traders Association of Kenya (Nutak) chairman, Johnson Kihara, revealed that this suspension, effective until November 1, 2024, has revitalized the industry.

Over 50 containers of in-shell macadamia nuts have been exported, contributing to market stability and the threefold increase in prices.

To address challenges within the value chain, the Agricultural and Food Authority (AFA) has announced stringent measures.

AFA marketing officer Kiragu Gathunya emphasized the need to eliminate unregistered marketing agents, particularly those delivering immature nuts that compromise the market.

Gathunya urged the industry to adhere to new regulations, emphasizing that non-compliance could jeopardize the stability of the macadamia market.

As the harvesting season approaches, the AFA is intensifying surveillance to identify and rectify market irregularities.

Gathunya cautioned that a significant portion of agents contracted by processing companies remains unregistered, accounting for 75% of those surveyed.

The macadamia farming landscape in the Mt. Kenya region faces challenges as more farms are established in Nakuru, Kericho, and Uasin Gishu. Gathunya urged farmers to ensure the harvesting of mature nuts, emphasizing that vigilant surveillance aims to protect the industry and government revenue.

Despite the positive shift, challenges persist for the sector. Macadamia nut processor Ndirangu Nyorotha reported a surplus of over 20,000 metric tons of processed nuts in warehouses, valued at Sh18 million (USD 124,146), which are at risk of going to waste due to a lack of market.

Farmers and processors remain cautiously optimistic about the future, hoping the export market’s momentum continues to bring prosperity to Kenya’s macadamia industry.

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