Macadamia is set to become a key cash crop in Taita-Taveta County, with four major companies buying over 240 tonnes of nuts from the county last year.
Jungle Nuts bought 160 tonnes, Kenya Nuts(60 tonnes)Farm Gates(30 tonnes) and Ten Senses Africa(TSA)(20 tonnes).
The major producing areas of the so-called “wondernut” in Taita-Taveta are Kidaya-Ngerenyi,Mghambonyi,Werugha,Chawia,Wundanyi,Mghange and Mwanda.
According to the Macadamia Growers Association of Kenya(MGAK) national chairman Francis Mwaigho, plans are underway to supply more than 4,000 seedlings to farmers in Taita-Taveta this season, which he says will go a long way to boost nut production and farmers’ income.
“Prices of the nuts have risen up to Sh 120 per kilo, with buyer companies paying farmers directly on delivery of the nuts,” Mwaigho revealed during an interview with i-MPACT NEWS in Wundanyi town.
He pointed out that his association had reached an understanding with buyer companies to purchase nuts directly from the farmers to stave off exploitation by middlemen.
“At the end of every year, registered macadamia farmers will get bonuses starting from 2 per cent per tonne of nuts. This will act as an incentive to farmers as they will be able to meet family obligations such as paying school and college fees for their children,” said the official.
He at the same time revealed that different interested companies were welcome to supply seedlings to farmers to discourage individual companies from monopolising the supply chain.
“With one macadamia tree producing between 200-300 kilograms per season, we are encouraging farmers to embrace the crop as a key cash crop especially in highland areas with high and moderate rainfall,” he said.
Mwaigho said that Taita produces some of the best macadamia nuts in the country which are 17 per cent organic.
He however regretted that most of the land in the county was fragments into small plots which was not conducive for large scale cultivation of macadamia.
“There is need for extensive research to see how macadamia can be embraced as a cash crop in the low lands and arid and semi-arid areas”, says Mwaigho.
The Taita-Taveta coordinator with Ten Senses Africa(TSA), one of the macadamia nut buying companies in the country Mr Alphonce Mwaidoma said that a plot had been identified for putting up a nut factory at the Maungu trading outpost in Voi, along the Nairobi Mombasa highway, which was later moved to Athi River .
“Athi River was chosen because it’s more centrally located between nut producing counties,” said Mwaidoma.
“A nut factory requires about 20 tonnes per day. This production target cannot be met in Taita-Taveta county alone,” he said, while expressing optimism that with a production of about 300 tonnes of nuts per season, the county has the potential of being a major producer in the future.
He also pointed out that macadamia nuts were being charged Sh 150,000 VAT per container during export, which is far much higher that other agricultural produce.
“We also laud the government for slapping a ban on the export of raw macadamia nuts since value addition would be a further boost to the economy,” said Mwaidoma.
Macadamia plants take about five years to mature and start producing nuts.
The nut has various uses. The shell is used to make charcoal, tiles, as well as oil, chicken pig and cow feeds.
Kenya is the fourth largest macadamia producer in the world. Australia is the leading producer followed by South Africa and Hawaii.
1.Macadamia Growers Association of Kenya(MGAK) national chairman Francis Mwaigho(left) with Ten Senses Africa (TSA) Taita-Taveta coordinator Alphonce Mwaidoma
2.Ripe macadamia nuts
PHOTOS/i-MPACT PICTURES and File
There is need for extensive research to see how macadamia can be embraced as a cash crop in the low lands and arid and semi-arid areas