Farmers hawking macadamia as prices in the world market slump

Joseph Maina, a macadamia farmer at Gatitu Village in Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

With lack of market for raw macadamia nuts, farmers have resorted to hawking their produce to sustain their families.

Over the past two months, hawking of macadamia nuts has become commonplace after processors declined to buy the produce, citing dwindling market in Europe and America.

In the streets of Nanyuki, Nyeri and Muranga towns, the nuts are now readily available for as little as Sh50 for 500 grammes.

Jane Njuguna, a trader at the new Nanyuki market, said a kilogramme goes for Sh100.

Most farmers have taken to hawking to avoid the Sh10 and Sh40 imposed by agents of the processors.

"A majority of the farmers have decided to sell off the nuts at throwaway prices to support their families," said Ms Njuguna.

Macadamia nut farmers in Nyeri County are counting losses as local processors buy their nuts at throwaway prices.

The farmers have vowed to uproot their macadamia trees if the situation does not change as brokers buy the nuts at as little as Sh10 to Sh20 per kilogramme.

According to Joseph Mania, a farmer with over 200 trees, for years growing macadamia was profitable, and with increased global demand, macadamia was considered the queen of nuts.

"Growing macadamia nuts used to be for the wealthy, 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 increased supply," he said.

He added that due to oversupply, farmers have had to sell their nuts at throwaway prices to local processors since 2015, when the government banned exportation of raw macadamia nuts.

"Farmers are now withholding their nuts in stores as they wait for prices to improve since brokers and local processors are buying the nuts at throwaway prices yet production costs are high," he said.

Samuel Ndiritu, a farmer in Tetu constituency, said that despite this being macadamia season it has been the worst since brokers have rejected their nuts as being immature and cannot meet global standards.

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

Morris Nderi, a dealer, said the government should suspend the ban on the exportation of in-shell produce.

The situation is devastating as tonnes of nuts are rotting in the farms due to the regulation.

The government should allow competition in the sector as the processors are taking advantage of the situation.

"Chinese market is ready for the raw nuts which have been blocked from leaving the country," said Nderi.

Some farmers, he disclosed, were selling the nuts to nearby tea factories to run the boilers as an alternative for firewood.

Muriithi Gichabi from Kirinyaga County called on the government to suspend oppressive regulations.

He said only two processors are actively buying the nuts at the moment, but at low rates.

"The regulator should advise on the per cent of the nuts that should be processed and sold in-shell for the Chinese market. Sixty per cent of the nuts produced in South Africa and Australia are sold in-shells," said Gichabi.