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Parastatal and farmers bicker on harvesting of macadamia nuts

A section of macadamia farmers have expressed displeasure over a directive by the Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) which bars them from harvesting the nuts during a specific season.

Macadamia farmers in Murang’a say they read mischief in the ban by the AFA on harvesting macadamia between November 30 and February 15 on the grounds that by the stated period the nuts are not yet mature.
The directorate of nuts and oil crops under AFA on December 10th issued a circular to macadamia dealers banning harvesting of immature nuts because they cannot meet export standards.
In the circular, all the processors and marketing agents are required to abide by the laid down regulations and the marketing agents in particular are warned against buying macadamia nuts in contravention of the regulations.
The directorate had deployed a team to the Mount Kenya region to enforce the ban after it emerged that farmers were harvesting premature nuts and selling them to middlemen.
The interim head of the directorate Mr. Richard Ndegwa stated in the circular that the ban will be enforced to stop harvesting of immature nuts in a bid to protect the quality of the country’s produce from being compromised.
On the other hand, farmers ague the directorate is being used by nut processors who are breaking for the festive season to prevent farmers from selling to other macadamia dealers .
The farmers led by Peter Njaramba from Murang’a and Erick Mwirigi from Meru described the ban as punitive and added that it is meant to frustrate small scale macadamia farmers from getting direct links to exporters of the nuts.
Njaramba said nuts mature at different periods of the year considering they are grown in different regions.
He noted that farmers have stored hundreds of metric tones of macadamia in their stores saying the ban has hindered them from selling their stocks.
Farmers, Njaramba said, know mature macadamia and added there is no need for them to be directed when to harvest the nuts.
“In some parts of Embu and Meru counties, already macadamia are mature but farmers cannot harvest them due to the ban,” added Njaramba.
Mwirigi on his part called upon the government to lift the ban and allow farmers market their nuts to their preferred traders.
“There is no need to stop farmers from harvesting their crops under lame excuses. Farmers know mature nuts that are ripe for harvest,” added Mwrigi.
He observed that the directorate was being misled by cartels in the nuts sector to impose the ban so as to safeguard their interests especially during this time when they have gone for holiday.
In Meru Mwirigi said the farmers have lodged a petition with the county government seeking help on lifting the ban so they can get permission to harvest their macadamia.
By Bernard Munyao

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