Macademia growers count losses on Covid price woes

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Macademia growers count losses on Covid price woes


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Vehicles ferry macadamia nuts on Embu-Chuka road in January. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Summary

  • With the declining fortunes in the tea and coffee sector, macadamia nuts were coming up as an alternative source of income for farmers in central Kenya and other non-traditional growing areas such as the Rift Valley and western.
  • But now farmers are counting losses after the prices for the crop plummeted due to the global economic shutdown that has seen the export market grind to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic woes.

With the declining fortunes in the tea and coffee sector, macadamia nuts were coming up as an alternative source of income for farmers in central Kenya and other non-traditional growing areas such as the Rift Valley and western.

But now farmers are counting losses after the prices for the crop plummeted due to the global economic shutdown that has seen the export market grind to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic woes.

In 2019, farmers in Nyeri, Meru and Embu sold a kilogramme of macadamia at Sh200 now the price has dropped to Sh30 and Sh40 since last year as export markets such as Europe, America and Asia have been locked down to control the spread of coronavirus.

Peter Muchemi, a farmer in Kangaita, Tetu, has been cultivating macadamia for 20 years, a venture he took up after he retired from Kenya Farmers Association.

As the business boomed, he contracted 50 farmers to grow the macadamia nuts, which led to his financial breakthrough as from his 280 trees he would harvest 4,000 kilos that would translate to Sh800,000 two years ago.

“I have faced minor challenges along the way but I overcame them easily because the demand and prices for macadamia nuts were constantly rising,” he said.

However, since March 2020 Mr Muchemi has been counting losses and slowly losing hope in this once-lucrative venture.

Farmers say there has been a lack of goodwill by both the central and county government, which have failed to come up with measures to support the sub-sector.

“When the country announced a lockdown, during our harvest season last year, I was not very worried because I expected it would only last a few months and macadamia would still sell,” he said.

Jungle Nuts chief executive Patrick Wainaina said there was a slowdown among processors who stopped buying the nuts from farmers after they were unable to sell off their stocks from the previous year.

“We have had a challenge selling off tonnes of macadamia in our traditional markets because of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

Mr Wainaina added that the sale of macadamia as raw material for the manufacture of confectionery and cakes barely sustains the processors.

“The manufacturers of sweets and chocolate are buying the macadamias as ingredients but they are only a small segment of the market. Therefore, we are counting losses hoping that the situation will improve,” he said.

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