Macadamia farmers are celebrating the end of one of the best seasons as the price of the nut has shot up.
Although the season started with protests after Chinese buyers were kicked out of the main growing areas in Meru and Embu, the season has not disappointed, with local companies offering some of the best prices for the produce. Some were willing to pay Sh210 for a kilogramme.
Nut processors are still scouting the growing areas in the Mount Kenya region in search of the last produce after the main harvesting season ended mid-last month.
John Kahiu, a farmer in Tetu, said he had sold his almost 3,000kgs at between Sh160 and Sh180. He said this was one of the best seasons he had ever seen for the crop.
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“We look forward to a better season next year and fully support the expansion of the market,” Mr Kahiu said on the phone.
Silas Kithinji, a Meru farmer affiliated to Kitheo Macadamia Farmers Association who sold over 700kgs at an average of Sh200 each, also described it as one of the best years.
“I believe the prices would have shot to Sh300 had the Chinese been allowed to continue buying, but we are impressed with what we got,” said Mr Kithinji.
Joseph Muturi, the managing director of the Maragua town-based Farm Nut processors, said there was no doubt that the season was one of the best for the producers.
“Farm gate prices shot up to as high as Sh210 after impressive demand in the international market opened up intense competition between buyers,” said Mr Muturi.
According to Muturi, high international prices scare away confectionery and cookie makers - the main consumers – who then look for alternative ingredients.
“What worries me is that very high prices in the international markets usually have their downside as they tend to be followed by a steep fluctuation in the subsequent season,” he said.
Muturi added that stocks of the produce had increased marginally in the year driven mainly by new plantings, as has been the norm in the past 10-15 years.
Muturi urged the Government, through the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate at the Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Authority, to deal firmly with those breaking the ban on the export of raw nuts.
“The industry estimates that up to 40 per cent of the macadamia produced gets smuggled and exported as raw nuts mainly to China,” said the director.
Joseph Muturi, the Farm Nut managing director, said the country needed to find a formula to deal with incentives in some of the markets where importers of raw materials are given up to 20 per cent rebates.
Some members of the Nut Processors Association of Kenya said it was worried by a strategy employed by some foreign buyers whom it said had hired brokers to lobby for the repeal of the law banning the export of unprocessed nuts.
A survey in the region conducted by The Standard revealed that more farmers were attracted by prompt and better pay from macadamia nuts compared to coffee, which, apart from low returns, is labor-intensive and requires a lot of care.
Farmers are benefiting from prompt payments and lucrative returns, unlike in the coffee sector.