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Value Chain Analysis for Macadamia Nuts from Kenya 2020

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Macadamia farming offers an important source of income for producers worldwide and especially for smallholder farmers in Kenya. Kenya is currently the third top macadamia producer, with a global market share of 13 percent (7,750 tonnes on kernel basis). The role of macadamia as a cash crop for foreign exchange earnings has steadily increased in recent years. In 2018, exports of macadamia kernel had a value of KES 1,380 per kilo, making it 1 of the most lucrative cash crops in Kenya after tea. The bulk of Kenyan macadamia is produced by about 200,000 smallholder farmers. Kenya’s macadamia production increased rapidly during the last decade, from around 11,000 tonnes nut-in-shell (NIS) production in 2009 to 42,500 tonnes in 2018. Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) estimates that, with increased acreage under the crop, production will reach 60,000 tonnes NIS by 2022. That would constitute an increase by around 40 percent from the production achieved in 2018.

Moreover, only a few processors export cashew nuts in addition to macadamia. According to processors interviewed for this study, the reason for this is that cashew trees are very old in Kenya and have not been replaced. Kenya currently produces less than 45,000 tonnes of cashew.

The findings of this VCA can be summarised under the following 4 broad headings:

Export market and VC competitiveness

Between 90 and 95 percent of Kenya’s macadamia is produced for export. Key export destinations for Kenyan macadamia are the U.S., the EU, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Canada. Direct imports of Kenyan macadamia enter the EU mainly through the Netherlands and Germany, accounting for a combined share of around 98 percent of the imports in 2018; small volumes also go to Spain, the UK and Italy. Europe’s importance as an export market for Kenyan macadamia shows an increasing trend, with imports growing from 1,268 tonnes in 2014 to 1,654 in 2018. The growing EU demand for macadamia, and especially organic macadamia, is rooted in a greater interest among EU consumers in food products with superior health benefits as well as natural cosmetics. An estimated 80 percent of macadamia nuts are consumed as snacks on the EU market; the remaining 20 percent are used as ingredients, for example in cookies or ice cream. Looking at average prices for macadamia kernel imports to Europe, Kenyan nuts used to achieve lower prices than imports from top producers Australia and South Africa. However, average prices almost caught up with other key origins in 2018, although quality issues at origin prevail.

Despite the increasing trends, both globally and in Europe, it is generally not expected that the demand for macadamia will compete with the more dominant nut varieties like walnuts or peanuts anytime soon. This is partially because consumers are not familiar with the product, but notably also because of its comparatively high price. Macadamia is expected to remain a niche product in the nut sector, albeit with a growing market base.

Structure, governance and sustainability of the VC

The Kenyan macadamia value chain (VC) comprises producers (smallholders and macadamia processors’ plantations), aggregators (traders and associations), processors (who also export), influencers and supporting organisations. Main influencers in Kenya’s macadamia value chain are AFA, the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate (NOCD), the Kenya Bureau of Standards and county governments. Other stakeholders influence the macadamia value chain one way or another, including the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives.

The Kenyan government, through AFA and the NOCD, is at the centre of governance of the macadamia sector in the country. The sector is regulated through 2 main instruments – the Kenyan Crops Act 2013 and the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Act (particularly Section 43, which prohibits NIS exports). AFA and the NOCD are the primary institutions responsible for leading the sector and implementing the development strategy and directive.

Despite the existence of a dedicated governmental body for nuts (the NOCD), the consensus among Kenyan macadamia stakeholders is that these 2 main regulatory instruments have so far insufficiently championed progress for the sector. This is in part due to obstacles in the value chain.

Obstacles and opportunities in the VC

Some of the main obstacles and areas of opportunities in the VC include:

  • Low productivity: factors affecting low productivity in Kenya’s macadamia sector include the effects of climate change, the impact of pests and diseases, poor Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), lack of access to inputs, use of unsuitable or old macadamia varieties and immature harvesting. The main opportunity for yield improvement lies with supporting extension service providers (such as KALRO and AFA) to increase their capacities and to multiply and disseminate high-yielding macadamia seedlings that are suited to the different macadamia growing regions of Kenya;
  • Low-quality nuts: immature harvesting is the main driver of low-quality nuts. Also, an uneven supply of hard and soft-shell macadamia nuts together with inadequate processing machinery reduces the capability of the sector to supply the international market with A-grade nuts. There are 2 main areas of intervention for quality improvement. The first involves supporting processors who wish to obtain loans to buy crops in advance, thereby addressing farmer’ need for quick cash. The second is the implementation of region-relevant harvesting moratoria.
  • Traceability: upstream traceability of Kenyan macadamia is severely challenged by the large number of smallholder farmers and independent buying agents. Adopting traceability systems (some of which are part of mobile cash applications) could help in addressing this problem. Moreover, support should go the creation of a registry of farmers (including data such as landholding size and age, number of macadamia trees and macadamia varieties) and traders. This registry should be governed and accessed by members of sectors associations and AFA;
  • Insufficient stakeholder collaboration: communication and dialogue among macadamia stakeholders is lacking. Often, conflicting interests among actors lead to attitudes of rivalry. To address this, sector associations should establish, adopt and enforce codes of conduct to regulate the practices of sector players. Dialogue and transparency should be the ruling principles of this code of conduct. Moreover, all actors should discuss a multi-stakeholder strategy to address the challenges facing the macadamia sector;
  • Poor EU market access: although some processors have links to European markets, the notion prevails among EU buyers that Kenyan macadamia is of inferior quality. Moreover, processors regard the EU market regulations as more stringent than those of the U.S. To address poor EU market access, the creation and marketing of a Kenyan macadamia brand should be explored. This brand, together with a revamped image of Kenya as a macadamia producer, could be launched during the 9th International Macadamia Symposium to be held in Nairobi in 2021.

Possible interventions in the VC

This VCA discusses several areas of intervention, covering quality improvement, improved extension services, market readiness, improved stakeholder collaboration and governance, and an enabling environment.

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VCA Kenya Macadamia Nuts 2020

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