Nut processors have raised alarm over smuggling of raw nuts threatening recovery of the sector. Through its association (Nut Processors Association of Kenya), they have also distanced themselves from renewed push to lift the ban on export of raw nuts saying it would lead to a drop in farm gate prices.
Over the weekend reports quoted the Nut Traders’ Association of Kenya (Nutak) saying the ban on raw nut export should be lifted to enable farmers sell the commodity out of the country.
NutPAK director Charles Muigai said export of raw nuts was tantamount to exporting jobs and denying the local processing firms raw materials.
In 2009 the then Agriculture ministry and now the Deputy President Mr William Ruto formed a task force to come up with recommendations on how to revitalize the then ailing nut sector.
Among the recommendations by the task force was the ban on the export of raw nuts, especially to china and tame middlemen who were blamed on the low farm gate prices.
NutPAK now warns that the government should safeguarded or retain the current policies to enable the sector to recover fully.
“Recently a consignment of eight containers of raw macadamia nuts were intercepted at the Namanga border point,” Mr Muigai noted.
He said a multi-sectoral approach involving law enforcing agencies, Agricultural Food Authority (AFA), customs and NutPAK has been created to offer vigilance and prevent traders who are believed to hold raw nuts in various warehouses from shipping them out.
Mr Muigai said the initiative has also led to deregistration of a number of illicit traders found flouting section 43 of Fisheries and Food Authority act that bans the export of raw nuts.
The NutPAK official however says that due to poor monitoring mechanisms and existence of well-coordinated cartel, some traders have continued to smuggle the nuts through neighboring countries.
Statistics from AFA indicate that since 2009, the production of macadamia has grown from 9,000 tons to the current 40,000 tons.
“The number of processors has also risen from three to 30 in a span of less than 10years,” said Muigai who said that sector has turned around and farmers were gaining confidence in the crop.
This has increased the demand for the nut that has seen farm gate prices shoot to Sh180 per kilo this year up from about Sh70 at the start in December, last year.