In the past one decade, farmers of traditional cash crops such as coffee, tea, sugarcane, and cotton have remained a disappointed lot due to the dwindling prices. The collapse of these cash crops has led to farmers exploiting other farming ventures to fill the financial gap. One of the best ways of fixing this mess is macadamia farming which has proved to be a lucrative business. The nuts prices have been on the rise since the 1980s where a kilogram of macadamia nuts was trading at Ksh 7 to today’s prices that have gone even above KSH 200 per kilo. Kenya is the world’s third-largest macadamia producer preceded by Australia and South Africa that take the first and second positions respectively. The quality of Kenyan nuts is ranked second from Australia worldwide.
The seedlings variety and farming practices determine macadamia yield. Grafted seedlings are the best as they take less time to mature and yield more compared to those that ungrafted ones. Besides, grafted macadamia plants occupy less space that allows increasing the number of plants per acre. An acre of land can take up to around 70 trees with a spacing of 10 by 5 metres. A well maintained grafted macadamia tree can yield an average of 80 kg per harvest. One acre plantation of macadamia trees, therefore, yields 5600 kg that translates to an income of Ksh 560,000 per harvest. The government has set a minimum of Ksh 70 per kilogram to cushion the farmers against greedy processors and middlemen. It implies that in the worst case scenario a macadamia farmer should earn Ksh 392,000 per an acre. It is also worth noting that in the year 2017 the nuts prices per kilo had increased to Ksh 230 implying that the earnings per acre were Ksh 1,288,000 per acre.
Challenges Facing Macadamia Farming in Kenya
Despite the lucrative nature, macadamia farming faces some challenges that an investor should be aware of when making investment decisions. Firstly, nuts are harvested once a year implying that revenue is realised once a year. Farming macadamia, therefore, requires perseverance and one has to set aside enough money to sustain crops for the entire year. Secondly, unscrupulous middlemen rip farmers off their hard earned cash by buying nuts at a throwaway price and selling to processors at a high price. This challenge can be addressed by selling the nuts to the processors directly. Lastly, macadamia farmers lack sufficient knowledge to practice the right farming for optimal yield. Evidence shows that most farmers get a yield of less than 40 kilograms per tree due to the wrong farming practices.