Macadamia processors are lobbying county governments in regions that produce the crop to come up with laws that ban the sale of immature nuts. The Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NutPak) has raised concerns that immature macadamia do not reach their full weight, which means Kenya fares badly when competing with other producers in the international market such as Australia, South Africa and Hawaii. Australia is the world’s largest producer of macadamia, with Kenya ranked fourth.
NutPak CEO Charles Muigai said immature nuts bring less revenue and pushed for laws that would shield farmers from middlemen who insist nuts be stripped when still immature instead of waiting for them to drop from trees.
Speaking in Embu, Mr Muigai said growing macadamia can become a lucrative business as the crop has the potential to yield 140 kilogrammes of nuts per tree each harvest, up from the current average of 25 kilos. He said farmers earned Sh2.5 billion from their macadamia in the last year, but with better agricultural practices, earnings could double to Sh5 billion.
Muigai added that macadamia farming is on the rise as his association works on expanding it from central and eastern Kenya to other areas with a suitable ecological zone, such as parts of the Rift Valley and the western region. Macadamia grows well in areas with fertile soils, average temperatures of 25oC and at least 1,000mm of rainfall.
The nuts can be eaten raw or processed to make cooking oil and cosmetics. They are a rich source of essential fats and contain protein, dietary fibre, iron and calcium. Muigai said last year, NutPak supplied farmers with two million seedlings in the hopes of increasing macadamia production from the current 25,000 metric tonnes to 35,000 metric tonnes within five years.