Macadamia farming has proven to be a profitable venture, and many farmers in the country have started to grow macadamia trees. The high profits and increasing demand for macadamia nuts have made nut farming an ideal venture even for low-income farmers. Increased small scale production has made Kenyan macadamia nuts to gain recognition globally. Over the past few years, more farmers have ventured into macadamia farming because of several factors such as;
Low returns in other sectors
Previously, cash crops such as tea and coffee were the leading exports in the country. However, due to the high number of middlemen and the changing economy, the once-lucrative venture shrank and farmers ended up making losses. When coffee farming was profitable, farmers planted macadamia trees to provide shade to their coffee plants. Today, most farmers have shifted to more profitable crops with most of them venturing into macadamia farming. In some regions, farmers have started clearing their coffee bushes to pave way for macadamia. For instance, the prices of macadamia nuts in 2018 rose to KES 180 per kilo in 2018 and part of 2019. Compared to crops such as maize that were going for even KES 20 per kilo and coffee which was going for about KES 55 per kilo, the prices of nuts can be considered incomparable. Close to September, the prices rose to KES 200 per kilo. The attractive prices were fuelled by the high demand in the international market.
Lower yields in other sectors
Compared to other crops such as coffee, macadamia produces more yields. For instance, one acre can accommodate up to 70 macadamia trees. One tree can produce up to 100kgs of nuts. With a price of KES 160, a farmer with 70 trees can make about 1,120,000 per year. Other crops such as tea, coffee, and maize can barely reach this figure, considering their high cost of production. However, farmers should adhere to the right farming methods to achieve optimum benefits.
Versatility and Ready Market For Macadamia Farming
Previously, the macadamia nut industry was dominated by middlemen who took a large number of farmers’ profits. However, with about 27 licensed processors that buy nuts directly from farmers, farmers are well cushioned against losses and exploitation. Kenyan nuts are popular in the local and international markets due to their crunchy nature. This has ushered fierce competition among raw nut exporters, local, and foreign roasters. The demand for macadamia nuts is high in Europe and Asia and hence there is always a ready market for Kenyan nuts. However, for farmers to get higher returns, Kenya should encourage investments in value addition. The global market has expanded due to the application of nuts in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, food, and beverages. In the food & beverage sector, nuts can be used in confectionery, dairy and frozen desserts, bakery, and culinary segments. In cosmetic and personal care products, they can be used to add value to lotions, shampoos, and moisturizers.
Short maturity and last longer
Macadamia trees are a lifetime investment that matures within a short time. Grafted seedlings mature within 2 years and have a high productivity rate. These trees produce high yields for a couple of decades unlike other crops such as maize which last only a few months.
Reuse and waste reduction
Macadamia husks can act as fuel in rural and urban areasreducing the usage of charcoal and firewood.
Kenyan farmers have experienced poor prices and losses of their produce and hence most of them shifting to other streams of income. With the development of macadamia farming, farmers can smile again. Macadamia trees require little maintenance unlike other crops such as coffee but fetch high profits. Farmers should consider planting grafted seedlings that mature fast. However, farmers should ensure that they get grafted seedlings from certified nurseries. As the macadamia industry grows, more farmers should venture into the lucrative business to help meet the increasing demand and enjoy high prices.