Macadamia Farming in Kenya Overtakes Coffee
Kenyan coffee production has dwindled after years of mismanagement by the industry regulator to 38,620 metric tons last year from a peak of 130,000 tons in 1989. Macadamia farming in Kenya increased 5 percent to 41,614 tons last year, after growing more than 20 percent over the preceding two years, according to the AFA. At current prices, last year’s macadamia crop was worth 7.49 billion shillings. The coffee industry earned 15.9 billion shillings last year, according to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
Wherever coffee is grown, macadamia also grows and farmers are now aware of the opportunity with macadamia.
Farmers in Kiambu, Meru, Embu, Murang’a and Kirinyaga — highland regions that surround Mt. Kenya, the source of the volcanic soil that suffuses Kenyan coffee with its strong acidic and fruity notes — are now the biggest producers of macadamia in the country.
Increasing output helped Kenya overtake the U.S. as the third-biggest producer in 2013, a position it’s held since then. Australia produced 14,100 tons of nut kernels last year, compared with South Africa’s 13,383 tons and Kenya’s 5,795 tons, according to the Reus, Spain-based International Nut & Dried Fruit Council.
The U.S. is the biggest importer of shelled macadamia, according to the council’s latest statistics, followed by China and Japan. Producers exported 31,187 tons in 2016, more than double shipments made a decade earlier.
Kenya’s production is expected to increase within the next four years when saplings with better yields mature, according to Maina, who sources the nuts from subsistence farmers.
Nairobi-listed agriculture companies including Kakuzi Plc and Sasini Plc have joined small-scale farmers in diversifying into the high-value nuts that are eaten raw, roasted or added to confectionery. Macadamia oil, which is unsaturated and cholesterol-free, is used mainly in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Kakuzi has been producing kernels since 2016, having planted macadamia trees where it once had coffee. Macadamia sales more than doubled to 371.6 million shillings last year, according to its latest annual report, making the nuts the company’s second-biggest earner after avocados.
Smaller rival Sasini, which has been growing coffee since the colonial era that ended in 1963, is constructing a macadamia-processing factory that’s scheduled to crush its first nuts this month. “Both these new lines of business, macadamia and avocado, show a lot of promise and the respective industries are thriving globally,” Sasini said in its latest annual report.