The County government of Meru in partnership with Slovakia has signed a deal to produce 200,000 macadamia seedlings annually to be distributed to farmers in the region in a bid to double the county’s production from the current 5,000 tonnes yearly to 10,000 tonnes by 2022.
One macadamia seedling retails at Sh350 currently and as such more than half of the farmers in the area cannot afford to purchase them.
This comes at a time when the price of macadamia has increased to Sh200per kilo since 2009 when the price was Sh70 buoyed by demand in the international market.
In Kenya, the industry grew by 19 per cent in 2017 with exports to the United States of America growing by 39 per cent according to USAID. The exports to USA is aided by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade program that helps establish stronger commercial ties between the U.S.A. and eligible sub-Saharan Africa countries such as Kenya by reducing tariffs on select goods. Macadamia nuts are one of 6,500 products that qualify for duty-free access to the U.S. under AGOA.
In Kenya, macadamia production has increased fourfold from 11,000 metric tonnes recorded in 2009 to 41,164 metric tonnes as of at 2018 as more farmers embrace the crop in central Kenya according to the Nut Processors Association of Kenya.
The increase in prices has also been enhanced by increase in licensed oil nut makers from 30 processors up from 24 in 2018.
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Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi distributing macadamia seedlings to a farmer at Gitoro ASK showground. Courtesy
Joshua Muriira for instance, a macadamia farmer in Meru harvested 4,000 kilos of the nuts in the 2017/18 season from 140 trees in his farm.
“I sold the nuts at an average price of Sh190 per kilo, with this good price I intend to up production the next season,” said Muriira.
Macadamia is used as food and is rich in vitamin A, B, iron, manganese and anti-oxidants which are essential in protecting the human body.
Macadamia nuts are also used in the cosmetic industry as an ingredient in face scrub.