The contribution of the macadamia industry to the economy of Embu is set to rise after an investor in partnership with the county government embarked on constructing a Sh200million nuts factory in the county.
Privamnuts Kenya Ltd is constructing a factory with a capacity of 7,000 metric tonnes every season at Muthatari area.
The factory will do complete value addition to churn out branded nuts ready for consumption and macadamia oil for export, while shells will make charcoal briquettes.
The factory is expected to stiffen competition with other macadamia processors for nuts produced in the county and neighbouring regions in the process benefiting farmers from better prices.
The firm's Managing Director Patrick Mukundi said the factory will employ 2000 workers once it starts operations before the end of the year.
He spoke when Governor Martin Wambora unveiled the foundation stone for the factory on Thursday.
Mukundi said the firm started processing macadamia five years ago in its Thika factory with capacity to process 1,000metric tonnes per season in partnership with a Swiss firm but saw the need to set base in the Embu, which is the leading producer of macadamia in the country.
The move, he said, would lower cost of production while the company will reach out to build the capacity of farmers to produce more and high quality products.
"Embu county produces 5,000metric tonnes hence won't meet the required capacity. We are partnering with the county government to build capacity of farmers to increase production," he said.
He however regretted that over years macadamia farmers have been getting raw deals due to exploitative middlemen and smugglers who go for immature nuts lowering its value.
He added that they were ready to engage the government and the farmers to address the issue.
"We have created links and partnerships with investors and customers in Germany, Netherlands, Japan and USA to market macadamia in a unique way. It's a global business that can double farmers' earnings if well handled. We want farmers to consider macadamia farming as a serious business not a part time affair," he said.
Mukundi said they estimate to make payments of Sh70million per season to Embu macadamia farmers.
He noted farmers planted poor yielding varieties since the high yielding varieties are expensive.
He said the research arm of the firm would introduce a macadamia variety for the lower zones of Embu County which is dry but expansive.
Wambora commended Mukundi for investing in the county, noting that local investors would stimulate the economy and create wealth.
Mukundi, 38, is a former banker and hails from Kibugu area in the county.
Wambora said they will double production in the next two years to 10,000 metric tonnes with estimated value of over 700million per year, adding they will partner with the factory to offer subsidized seedlings to farmers.
He said macadamia contributes about 66percent of the total value of the horticulture subsector and benefits 11.8percent of the households in the county.
"We have come up with policy interventions which analyses the various concerns in the subsector and highlights the challenges faced. Trade and value addition being a very important issue is handled exhaustively with a view of maintaining and improving the quality of nuts and healthy competition among the processors," he said.