Macadamia farmers get jittery over China plans
One of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in Kenya is macadamia.
With farm gate prices hitting Sh200 a kilo at the close of the harvesting season in September, farmers are planting more trees to exploit the opportunity.
However, what threatens to burst this bubble is China's entry into the picture. China produces about 25,000 tonnes of the nuts annually.
China is one of the key markets for local nuts, importing about 6,000 mainly unprocessed tonnes of nuts every year.
According to Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NUTPAK) executive officer Charles Muigai, a delegation at this year's Macadamia Symposium in China was told that the Chinese government has started planting more than 10 million trees, hoping to be one of the biggest macadamia producers on the planet.
Should the Far East country produce 50,000 tonnes of nuts annually, it could threaten Kenya's export market.
This prospect has thrown the industry into a spin, with stakeholders keen on increasing production and seeking new markets.
Following the anticipated competition, NUTPAK is organising activities to sensitise farmers on good crop husbandry.
It will peak in March when the next harvesting season starts.
According to NUTPAK, the campaign will cost about Sh10 million.
The organisation will then register farmers into market clusters and issue them with smart cards in a project estimated to cost Sh50 million.
However, Mr Richard Ndegwa, the interim head of the Nut and Oil Crops Directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority, downplayed the Chinese threat, saying Kenya's main market is the United States.
“We are also holding talks with Cuba and other Caribbean countries to buy our nuts,” Mr Ndegwa said.
He added that the agency is working with other stakeholders to increase production from 41,000 tonnes of macadamia to about 100,000 by 2022.