Macadamia Nut Farming in KenyaKenyan farmers are growing more macadamia trees, and such a decision is proving to be extremely profitable. The high demand and high returns of macadamia nut farming in Kenya have the potential to be incredibly beneficial for low-income farmers.

Why the Increase in Macadamia Trees?

Historically, farmers planted macadamia trees to provide shade for coffee bushes that produce high-quality coffee; however, today, some coffee farmers have switched to farming macadamia nuts due to the fact that the price for the nuts has more than doubled so far in 2018. A kilo (about two pounds) of nuts sells for 160 to 180 Kenyan shillings, which is up from 70 shillings as of January 2018. Kenya is now the world’s third-largest grower of macadamia nuts, behind South Africa and Australia.

The versatility of the nuts may be a reason for their high demand in international and local markets. Macadamia nuts can be eaten raw or added to various food items like candies and cakes, or also made into oil with pharmaceutical and cosmetic uses.

The waste products — like shells and husks — can then be utilized as fertilizer, processing fuel, mulching and other efficient uses. Kenyan macadamia nuts are especially appreciated for their crunchy consistency, and the United States imports the largest amount of shelled macadamia on the globe. There are now 27 licensed macadamia processors in Kenya, as opposed to just five in 2013. 

Decrease in Coffee, Rise in Nuts

The slow decline of Kenya’s coffee production may have also given room for the macadamia market to thrive. There were 38,620 tons of coffee grown in 2017 compared to the nation’s peak of 130,000 tons in 1989. Busolo, Director-General of Agriculture and Food Authority in Kenya, stated: “We want the private sector to play a key role, unlike coffee, which had a lot of government involvement.”

Slovak Aid, an appendage of Slovak foreign policy, has funded a project that will provide farmers in Kirinyaga  County, Kenya, with one million “fast-maturing” and “high-yielding” seedlings so as to promote macadamia nut farming in Kenya.

These seedlings are expected to come to full maturity in three years rather than nine, and produce 50 kilograms worth of nuts as opposed to the 10 kilogram average. The organization has dedicated itself to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to eradicate poverty and hunger while also promoting sustainable development.

An Optimistic Future

Kenya’s Slovak Ambassador, Frantisek Dlhopolek, is optimistic about macadamia nut farming in Kenya. “Kenya’s climatic condition is ideal for optimum macadamia production and…with the rising global demand is not a coincidence-rather a calculated move to help local farmers prosper,” he said.

It’s expected that with the help of this project, Kenya may grow to hold the number one position in global macadamia production.

– Camille Wilson
Photo: Google