The Coronavirus disease has hit hard macadamia farmers after its price plunged to Sh50 from Sh200 last year, a 75 percent drop.
Processors suspended buying of the commodity in April, citing uncertainty due to the shutdown of industries in various parts of the world as governments imposed lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus.
This left producers at the mercy of brokers who are now mopping up the nuts at throwaway prices, the farmers said.
Daniel Murungi, a farmer in Tigania East, said he had sold about 5,000 kilos since the season began in March at an average price of Sh60, earning Sh300,000. At the close of the season last June, the nuts were selling for between Sh170 and Sh200 a kilo, meaning they would have fetched at least Sh850,000.
“This is a huge loss because we have spent a lot of money tending to the trees. We don’t have any other cash crop. We request the government to help us deal with this loss,” he said yesterday in a phone interview. Meru Macadamia Farmers Association chairman Joshua Muriira said processors including Kenya Nut and Jungle Nut closed buying centres, fuelling the low prices.
“This pandemic has taken us back five years when the prices were at Sh50 a kilo. The government should intervene before we lose hope in the crop that had since 2016 shown signs of recovery,” Mr Muriira said.
The current situation has prompted fresh calls for a review of section 43 of the Crops Act 2009, which banned the export of raw nuts to improve farmers’ incomes.
The Nut Traders Association of Kenya chairman Johnson Kihara backed the proposal.
“A window of at least four years should be opened so that farmers can recover from this loss,” he said.