Price wars between Kenyan and international macadamia farmers and surrounding regions, lack of farm inputs, cartels in the sector and monopoly of the produce buyers have exposed the unending struggle by farmers.
The farmers have less control on the market prices of the essential commodity since the government banned raw exportation of nuts.
In Chinese market for instance, a kilogram of nuts goes up to Sh 170; but farmers in Mount Kenya region are reading mischief by local processors, who they accuse of suppressing prices by pushing them below Sh100 per kg of nut in shell.
The producers have also renewed calls for repeal of section 43 of the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Act, which prohibits export of raw nuts.
The regulation states that ‘a person shall not export raw cashewnuts, pyrethrum, bixa, macadamia or any other agricultural product as may be prescribed, except with the written authority of the Cabinet Secretary.”
The regulation which was aimed at empowering local processors, creating jobs and improving farmers’ earnings has sparked criticism as farmers says that none of the buyers in Kenya are paying a fair price. Also, the local processors have been fighting attempts to repeal the law.
The farmers have raised concerns over exploitation by cartels in the industry and oppression by Section 43 of the ambiguous Crops Act 2013 which continues to be misused by ‘only three Kenyan processors while thousands of farmers continue to suffer.’
“We have never enjoyed the benefits of farming macadamia since inception of the crop. What worries us most is that the government is not ready to lift ban on individual exportation. We don’t have enough money to put up factories to process before export as the regulation demands. We are urging the government to get rid of that oppressive policy,” said Edward Njau, a 76-year-old farmer from Kanyoni in Gatundu North.
Speaking during a sensitization meeting at Kamwangi in Gatundu North, Nuts Traders Association of Kenya (NUTAK) chairman Joseph Kihara and Secretary Nahashon Muugu said Macadamia said farmers have continued to suffer since the crop was introduced in the country in 1956 while the government has continued to lose revenue in form of taxation.
Kihara said they have done everything to ensure that the oppressive section is repealed since 2009 when they went to court and later petitioned the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture without success.
Muugu said the government only collects a mere Sh 12,300,000 as tax annually while farmers get only Sh 3 billion with the three exporters pocketing Sh 127 billion.
They said while Miraa and cashew nut farmers have benefited from government subsidized fertilizer, the same has not been accorded to Macadamia farmers and it is only recently that Macadamia became a scheduled crop.
After frustrations by both the Judiciary and parliament, the farmers who have already tabled their booklet of grievances leader of opposition Raila Odinga said they want to benefit from the handshake between president Uhuru and Odinga.
Odinga is projected to, through a nation address press conference expected to address the plight of farmers on Wednesday.
“We are not giving up yet and if the worst come to the worst, we shall have no alternative but use Section 1 of the constitution which gives Wanjiku the sovereign power. We also want to benefit from the handshake and we feel Railla is someone to be trusted to broker a deal since the Judiciary and parliament have let us down,” said Muugu.
The two called on farmers to observe quality and avoid selling their nuts on credit.