With tough thick shell but rich oil, macadamia nuts are rich in nutrients, unsaturated fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B1, B2 and 8 essential amino acids, which can be taken for one of the best nutrient table nuts all around the world. The extensive uses of macadamia nuts may be the main reason for their high demand in international and local markets. As far as know, macadamia nuts can be eaten raw, or added to various food items like candies and cakes, or also applied to make as edible oils. As the Covid19 restrictions have eased up in many countries and the distribution channels are finally resuming, experts predict that the macadamia business can recover as global markets reopen. By the way, in August 2021, Kenya may have the chance to host the 9th International Macadamia Symposium, which can express the global marketing demand for macadamia nuts.
Current Situation of Macadamia nut Production in Kenya
According to the Nut Processors Association of Kenya, Kenyan Macadamia farmers are currently producing just appromixely 42,000 tonnes of in-shell nuts, constituting only 20% of the global supply. In Kenya, macadamia nut trees, an important high value export market cash crop, are mostly planted in Central, Eastern, Rift Valley and Coast Provinces. The national average yield is 28%, 16% exportable nut and 12% for local markets. Kenya has an unexploited cottage industry, and there is potential for development for alternative uses of macadamia and macadamia by-products in the food and beauty, building, and feed industries.
It is reported that there are about 2 million macadamia nut trees of varying ages from 1 year to 20 years in Kenya, planted by over 200,000 small scale farmers with an average of 6 -12 trees per grower. And the annual production of macadamia nuts is approximately 10,000 metric tons of nuts-in-shell. Many Kenyan farmers are integrating macadamia trees into their coffee and tea plantations so as to withstand the effect of poor coffee and tea production caused by uncertainties of weather. For now, Japan and the United States are the 2 largest markets, together accounting for almost 84 percent of Kenya’s total exports Macadamia.
Due to the high demand for high-quality macadamia nuts in the Chinese market, the expansion of macadamia cultivation has also been driven by this demand. East African country Kenya is one of them. In Kenya, growers used to plant some macadamia fruit trees, but they were only used to shelter coffee bushes. In the past, Kenya has always been famous for its precious Arabica coffee. However, with the increasing reputation of macadamia nuts internationally, Kenya has now become the third largest macadamia producing area in the world, also the second largest exporter of macadamias.
Advantages of Macadamia nut Farming in Kenya
Kenya’s climatic condition is ideal for optimum macadamia nut production and with the rising global demand is a calculated move to help local farmers prosper. The Macadamia nut is adaptive to the diverse agro-climatic conditions, which is the basic condition to expand macadamia nut production in Kenya.
Almost 80% macadamia nuts are consumed as snacks on the EU market, while the remaining 20% macadamia nuts are used as ingredients, for instance, in making cookies or ice cream. For the moment, Kenya has been the third-largest grower of macadamia nuts, next only to South Africa and Australia. And from the average prices for macadamia nuts imported to Europe, the price of macadamia nuts imported from Kenya has achieved lower than from top producers Australia and South Africa. That is to say, Kenya macadamia nuts are now very marketable and in high demand.
Benefits of Macadamia Nut Production
Growing more macadamia trees in Kenya is proving to be extremely profitable for low-income farmers because of the high demand and high returns of macadamia nut production. In Kenya, macadamia nut production is able to increase Kenyan farmer’s income, receive more earnings in foreign exchange, promote employment opportunities, alleviate poverty and raise their living standards through increased production, processing and marketing of macadamia nuts.
Future of Macadamia nuts Farming in Kenya
The most effective grafting method of macadamia nut should be researched on so as to increase the production of grafted or high quality seedlings. Besides, farmers also need to continue efforts in cultivation practices and methods of propagation. Moreover, the Kenyan government has been putting in place an appropriate policy, institutional and legal framework to sustain this growth and provide the right environment for nut production and marketing by farmers. For instance, a project with one million “fast-maturing” and “high-yielding” seedlings supplied to farmers in Kirinyaga County has been founded so as to promote macadamia nut farming in Kenya. The Agriculture and Food Authority projects that macadamia nut production in Kenya will reach 61,000 tons in the next five years with proper support.