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Macadamia slowly replacing coffee as source of income

About 30 years ago, a section of coffee farmers in Murang’a could not comprehend that the macadamia seedlings they were given to plant in their farms would one time replace coffee as their major source of income.

Coffee factories used to provide farmers with macadamia seedlings to plant in their farms so as to protect the coffee bushes from strong winds and direct sunlight.

Currently a section of farmers are slowly abandoning coffee farming and embracing macadamia after the nuts demand increases thus giving better returns.

Several farmers in Kahuru Sub County of Murang’a have praised macadamia farming saying the nuts have rescued them from the declining coffee sector.

“We were given macadamia seedlings to plant in our farms by our local coffee factory about 30 years ago, they were to protect coffee bushes from strong winds and sun,” Anthony Wacu a macadamia farmer told KNA.

Wacu, who has a farm in the Mugoiri area observed that they have been struggling to make better returns from coffee thus opting to venture into macadamia farming.

In the last decade, many farmers have increased the macadamia trees in their farms in a bid to enter the promising nuts agribusiness.

He noted that currently, many companies have established factories to process macadamia adding that some exporters were also buying the nuts directly from farms.

Michael Kariuki introduced macadamia farm in his once idle section of land and according to him macadamia pays on a regular basis once they mature.

“I planted 55 seedlings five years ago and am hopeful early next year I will make my first sale. Macadamia farming motivated me because it requires less maintenance costs unlike coffee and it pays on regular short intervals,” he stated.

Many farmers have hailed macadamia farming for having minimal diseases and pest attack as well as the low maintenance cost the trees require.

They also pointed out the instant payment upon delivery of their produce as one of reasons that have attracted them to venture in macadamia.

Once farmers harvest macadamia nuts, they peel the fresh green coat and deliver to an authorized agent at Kahuro town who buys the nuts on behalf of numerous nut companies including Jungle Nuts, Kenya Nuts, Sagana Nuts and Farm Nuts among others.

Peter Kamau Irungu who operates the collecting point at Kahuro revealed he buys an average of 500 kilogrammes of macadamia in a day from many small scale farmers who were yet to be registered.

A kilogramme of macadamia cost at average of Sh150 which highly attracted farmers but according to Kamau, the demand went low amid the restrictions imposed to curb spread of Covid-19 prompting the price to fall to an average of Sh. 60 per kilo.

“Before Covid-19, we used to buy the nuts from the farmers at around Sh150 but since then the rate of importation went low and a kilo went for around Sh. 60 but the market is now reviving and demand is going up once again,” he added.

Many macadamia farmers in the area are optimistic that the new cash crop would be a major source of income in the coming years amid reports of Kenya being ranked amongst top producers of macadamia in the world with top destination being China, Japan and USA.

The main challenge facing macadamia farming in the area is theft of nuts at night by unknown people as the farmers called upon the government to register all the farmers in the area in a move that would see only registered farmers sell their nuts produce.

The farmers are also seeking the government’s interventions to protect them from the fluctuating world prices and request for agricultural extension services to help them increase their produce.

By Bernard Munyao

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