Kenya’s decision to lift the ban on the exportation of raw macadamia nuts has been welcomed by farmers who have been struggling to get better prices for their produce. The ban, which was imposed in 2015, prohibited the exportation of raw nuts and aimed to empower local processors, create jobs, and improve earnings for farmers. However, processors have been buying the nuts at a low price, with a kilogramme fetching as low as between Sh20-Sh50 compared to Sh200 a few years back.
The Trade Cabinet Secretary, Moses Kuria, announced that the ban will be lifted for one year to open up the market to global buyers. He said that this move will allow farmers to sell to the highest buyers and fetch more from their produce. The temporary lifting of the ban on the exportation of raw macadamia nuts is expected to enable farmers to get better prices for their produce and open up the market to global buyers.
Kenya is one of the largest producers of macadamia nuts in the world, with over 20 licensed processors and a capacity of 80,000 tonnes. There are approximately 6,000 macadamia farmers in the country, with the majority coming from the Mount Kenya region. Last year, macadamia growers earned Sh4 billion from increased production, according to the Nuts Traders Association of Kenya.
Senators are now pushing for the permanent lifting of the ban on the exportation of raw nuts, saying that it has resulted in significant losses for local farmers since it came into force. The Senate Agriculture Committee chairperson said that it was wrong for five companies to dominate the local market, with value-added macadamia going for Sh3,600 a kilo while farmers receive at most Sh30 a kilo.
Kirinyaga Senator James Murango welcomed the one-year reprieve and said it should be made permanent and extended to cover cashew nuts, bixa, and pyrethrum. He argued that the ban had made it easy for cartels to lower prices by refusing to buy from farmers, thus flooding the market with cheap nuts. He claimed that the law had been pushed by cartels that were smuggling the nuts to Tanzania, which exports more macadamia than Kenya despite not having many farmers.
Mr. Murango said that they were keen to amend the “draconian” Section 43 of the Agriculture and Food Authority Act 2013, which restricts local farmers from exporting the nuts except with the written authority of the Agriculture cabinet secretary. He also said that the regulation was aimed at empowering local processors, creating jobs, and improving earnings for farmers, but the opposite happened, prompting farmers to uproot their macadamia trees rather than sell the nuts at throwaway prices.
The lifting of the ban is expected to benefit small-scale farmers, who have been hit hard by the low prices, and enable them to sell their produce at better prices. The macadamia nuts market has been growing rapidly in recent years, driven by the increasing demand for healthy snacks. The nuts are used in various products, including chocolate, ice cream, and skincare products.
The global demand for macadamia nuts is expected to continue growing, especially in Asia, where they are becoming increasingly popular. China is one of the largest importers of macadamia nuts, and there is a growing demand for them in other Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea. The demand for macadamia nuts in the United States and Europe is also increasing, driven by the growing popularity of healthy snacks and plant-based diets.
The lifting of the ban is expected to enable Kenya to tap into the growing demand for macadamia nuts globally and increase its exports.
Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr also supported the lifting of the ban, stating that it was a welcome move as it would benefit farmers who had been struggling to make ends meet due to the low prices they were receiving for their produce.
He emphasized the need for the government to work towards creating a more enabling environment for farmers to reap the full benefits of their labor, including providing access to better markets and supporting the formation of cooperatives.
There is no doubt that the lifting of the ban on raw macadamia nut exports is a step in the right direction for Kenya’s agricultural sector. It is clear that the ban had failed to achieve its intended goals of improving earnings for farmers and empowering local processors.
Instead, it had led to low prices for farmers and the dominance of a few companies in the local market. By opening up the market to global buyers, farmers will be able to sell their produce to the highest bidder, resulting in better prices and increased earnings.
However, it is important to note that this is only a temporary measure, and there is a need for more long-term solutions to address the challenges facing the sector.
One such solution is the promotion of value addition, which involves processing the raw nuts into products such as roasted nuts, nut butter, and nut oil. This would not only increase the value of the nuts but also create jobs and promote industrialization.
The government should also invest in research and development to improve the quality and productivity of macadamia farming. This includes providing farmers with better seeds and training on modern farming techniques and best practices.
Finally, there is a need for the government to address the issue of cartels and middlemen who have been exploiting farmers by offering low prices for their produce. This can be achieved by improving market transparency, supporting the formation of cooperatives, and cracking down on illegal activities such as smuggling.
In conclusion, the lifting of the ban on raw macadamia nut exports is a positive development for Kenya’s agricultural sector. However, it is just one step towards addressing the challenges facing the sector. More needs to be done to promote value addition, improve productivity, and address the issue of cartels and middlemen. With the right policies and support, the macadamia industry has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs, and improve the livelihoods of thousands of farmers in Kenya.