Macadamia processors have expressed optimism that the sub-sector is slowly recovering from the coronavirus slump following the partial reopening of economies in Europe, China and the US.
Fresh orders are beginning to come in as restaurants, hotels and airports reopened, said James Karanja, Batian Nuts Limited managing director.
“We could not buy it because we were not doing any production. But at the moment we are getting orders, especially from Europe and China. There is hope that we will start buying,” he said.
Mr Karanja said the company buys small quantities of the nuts from farmers because they had cut production by nearly 70 per cent over the past three months.
He spoke on Wednesday in Kariene, Imenti Central in Meru County when he distributed soap, masks and foodstuff to macadamia farmers to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
March to June is generally boom time for macadamia farmers who last year sold the nuts at up to Sh200 a kilo. But the pandemic saw farmers incur losses after processors suspended buying, creating room for brokers who offer a paltry Sh50 a kilo.
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As factories reopen, farmers were however warned they should not expect good prices as was the case last year since processors would be cautious.
“There is a likelihood that this year’s crop will overlap with next year’s so we will not start buying full scale,” Mr Karanja said.
The Nuts Processors Association of Kenya (NutPAK) had indicated that this year’s crop was as good as lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, although middlemen have exploited the situation and continued to buy nuts at throw away prices anticipating to reap premium prices when the industries are reopened.
But NutPAK executive officer Charles Muigai warned that they expected this year’s crop to overlap to next year and warned that those who were buying nuts in huge quantities might lose their money.
The poor prices farmers were getting from middlemen have also prompted fresh calls for a review of section 43 of the Crops Act introduced in 2009 which outlaws export of raw nuts with farmers saying this would improve their incomes.