Kenyan farmers are going nuts over Macadamia and are abandoning coffee beans for the pricey hard nuts

Prices for unshelled Macadamia nuts have risen to as high as Sh180 ($1.80) a kilogram this season from about Sh70 at the start in December

  • Farmers are now making so much profit from the production of Macadamia nuts that they’re abandoning coffee beans altogether.
  • Prices for unshelled Macadamia nuts have risen to as high as Sh180 ($1.80) a kilogram this season from about Sh70 at the start in December.
  • The U.S. is the biggest importer of shelled macadamia followed by China and Japan.

Farmers in Kenya’s highland regions of  Kiambu, Meru, Embu, Murang’a and Kirinyaga, that primarily grow coffee are now the biggest producers of macadamia in the country.

“Farmers are beginning to discover that this is gold,” said Loise Maina, one of three founders of Nawiri Agribusiness. “Wherever coffee is grown, macadamia also grows and farmers are now aware of the opportunity with macadamia.”

Macadamia and coffee enjoy a symbiotic relationship and farmers usually plant macadamia trees to shade their coffee bushes but the trend is changing.

They are now making so much profit from the production of the nuts that they’re abandoning coffee beans altogether.

Prices for unshelled nuts have risen to as high as 180 shillings ($1.80) a kilogram (2.2 pounds) this season from about 70 shillings at the start in December, and may climb to 200 shillings, according to Alfred Busolo, head of Kenya’s state-run Agriculture and Food Authority.

By contrast, coffee prices have taken a slump and coffee farmers have operated at a loss with their beans for years now, earning about $0.55 per kilogram, according to a report last year by London-based advocacy group Fair Trade.

Kenyan coffee production has dwindled after years of mismanagement by the industry regulator to 38,620 metric tons last year from a peak of 130,000 tons in 1989.

Macadamia production increased 5 percent to 41,614 tons last year, after growing more than 20 percent over the preceding two years, according to the AFA.

At current prices, last year’s macadamia crop was worth 7.49 billion shillings.

The U.S. is the biggest importer of shelled macadamia, according to the council’s latest statistics, followed by China and Japan. Producers exported 31,187 tons in 2016, more than double shipments made a decade earlier.

Increasing output helped Kenya overtake the U.S. as the third-biggest producer in 2013, a position it’s held since then.

Australia produced 14,100 tons of nut kernels last year, compared with South Africa’s 13,383 tons and Kenya’s 5,795 tons, according to the Reus, Spain-based International Nut & Dried Fruit Council.

Kenya’s production is expected to increase within the next four years when saplings with better yields mature, according to Maina, who sources the nuts from subsistence farmers

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