Macadamia farmers lament over poor market prices

Farmers display macadamia nuts at Gatitu village in Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Macadamia farmers in Nyeri County are counting losses due to poor market prices.

They lamented that local processors are buying their nuts at throw-away prices.

Farmers have vowed to uproot their macadamia trees if the situation does not improve as brokers buy the nuts at as little as Sh10 and Sh20 per kilogram.

This comes after the government lifted the ban on the export of raw macadamia nuts for one year early this month, to open up the market to global buyers.

According to Joseph Maina, who owns over 200 trees, growing macadamia was profitable in the past and with the increased global demand, macadamia was considered the queen of nuts.

"Growing macadamia was a hobby for wealth, not many small-scale farmers knew how profitable the nuts were, but with the increase in demand more farmers started planting the nuts which led to an increase in production," he said.

The farmer added that due to a glut in the market, farmers have been forced to sell their nuts at throw-away prices to local processors since 2015 when the government banned the exportation of raw macadamia nuts.

"Farmers are now withholding their nuts in stores as they wait for the market prices to increase, since brokers and local processors are buying the nuts at a throw-away price of between Sh10 to Sh20 per kilogram which is a loss compared to the high price of farm inputs," he said.

Samuel Ndiritu a farmer in Tetu constituency said that despite this being a macadamia season, it has been the worst since brokers are rejecting their nuts saying they are not mature and are of low standards.

"As farmers, we were expecting to make a profit since the government has allowed global buyers into the market but this has not happened, the market is bad, I was on my way to the market to sell my nuts but they have been rejected," he said.

The farmers are urging the government to educate them on macadamia prices and eliminate brokers who are oppressing them.

"We want the government to allow us to form lobby groups that will allow us to negotiate and make a fixed price for our nuts to eliminate brokers who are buying our produce at a throw-away price," Maina said.

Melvin Mwaniki a macadamia nut trader said he has been forced to venture into avocado trade as the middlemen have stopped buying macadamia citing that lack of demand has rendered the macadamia trade useless.

"The two companies that used to buy the produce stopped buying from us and as farmers, we were forced to cut down our trees," he said.

The government banned the export of raw macadamia nuts in 2015 with the aim of empowering local processors, creating jobs and improving farmers' earnings.

Early this month Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said the ban will be lifted for one year to open up the market to global buyers to enable farmers to fetch more profit from the nuts.