The rising numbers of COVID-19 cases are sparking anxiety about the collapsing food systems, negative economic growth, and failing healthcare systems globally. In The African continent, we are experiencing great uncertainty. Apart from coronavirus, the agriculture sector has been greatly hit by climate change and production has reduced significantly in various parts of the world. If strict measures are not enforced to mitigate the effect of the epidemic, the chances of having an imminent food crisis will be high. However, macadamia industry is recovering.
Macadamia Industry is Recovering
Last year, macadamia were selling at premium prices with a kilo going for up to Ksh 200. This year has been different. The epidemic has resulted to a sharp drop in the prices with brokers buying the nuts at Ksh 50 per kilo.
The reopening of economies in the US, China, and Europe has offered a glimpse of hope to the macadamia sub-sector.
According to Batian Nuts managing director, James Karanja, orders are beginning to come from the reopened hotels, restaurants, and airports. Previously, there was little production in the macadamia industry due to low demand and hence most processors were unable to buy nuts from farmers. Reopening of factories, food stores and travel channels means that the demand will increase hence processors will start buying nuts.
However, farmers should not expect good prices since factories would be cautious not to process large quantities until the coronavirus epidemic is in control. Few processors will be buying nuts full scale.
The epidemic has been an opportunity for middlemen to exploit farmers and buy the nuts at throw away prices. These middlemen anticipate selling them at premium prices when the macadamia industries are reopened. Charles Muigai, NutPAK executive officer, warned that there is a possibility those buying nuts in large quantities might end up making losses.
What are Africa’s solutions?
Short-term measures that can be taken to address the food security threat in the future include:
- Making provision of agricultural inputs such as seedlings, agro-chemical, and fertilizers easier via smart input subsidies.
- Implementing anti-hoarding policy
- Imposing stricter measures on the exportation of raw nuts. This will prevent middlemen from exploiting farmers, buying their nuts at low prices.
- Rapid scale up of technologies in the agriculture sector to boost production, minimize farming costs, and help farmers look for better markets.
Medium and long-term food security interventions such as;
- Strengthening the resilience in food supply chain by promoting processing, value addition, and efficient production. In Kenya, we sell raw nuts instead of using them to add value to products and export finished products and in the process lose a more lucrative opportunity. In Asia and Europe, macadamia are extensively applied in food and beverages and personal care products. Making cosmetic products such as lotions, moisturizers, shampoos or food products like cakes, macadamia nut butter, breakfast cereals, or biscuits can be more profitable than exporting raw nuts.
- Employing improved food quality and food safety after coronavirus.
- Promoting digitalization in the agriculture sector and increase the employment of e-commerce to elevate the impact of coronavirus.
Despite the coronavirus epidemic, products made from macadamia nuts such as cosmetics and foods are still selling, locally and internationally. If we considered value addition, the impact of coronavirus could have lesser.
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