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January 16, 2019

Macadamia farmers say cartels, rules lower prices and ruin trade

NUTAK Secretary General Nahashon Muugu addressing the press after a sensitization meeting in Kamwangi Gatundu North on Friday
NUTAK Secretary General Nahashon Muugu addressing the press after a sensitization meeting in Kamwangi Gatundu North on Friday

Macadamia farmers from the Mount Kenya region have complained about exploitation by cartels and politicians.

On Friday they also condemned Section 43 of the Fisheries and Food Authority Act 2013, which bans export of raw produce — except with written authority from the CS or approval of the National Assembly.

The ban was imposed in 2015 to stop exploitation of farmers by foreigners. It was intended to develop the industry and create jobs for youth processing the nuts before they are exported.

The ban was imposed in 2009 when Deputy President William Ruto was Agriculture minister. The law was enacted in 2013 to implement the directive.

But farmers say the law is misused by a few people as thousands of farmers suffer.

Nuts Traders Association of Kenya chairman Joseph Kihara and secretary Nahashon Muugu on Friday said macadamia farmers have been suffering since the crop was introduced in 1956.

The state, they said, has continued to lose revenue in the form of tax. They spoke during a meeting in Kamwangi, Gatundu North.

Kihara said they have done everything to ensure the oppressive section is repealed, since 2009 when they first went to court without success. They petitioned the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture.

Muugu said they have been frustrated by the Judiciary and Parliament, as only four out of 29 members of the committee voted in their favour. They said lawmakers had been compromised by cartels.

Muugu said the government collects a mere Sh12.3 million in tax annually. Farmers get only Sh3 billion, with the three main exporters pocketing Sh127 million, he said.

They said they want to get the same treatment as miraa and cashew nut farmers, who have benefited from subsidised fertiliser.

On Thursday, the officials met former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and expressed their frustrations. Raila is to meet them again on Wednesday before meeting President Uhuru Kenyatta over the issue. “We want to benefit from the handshake. Raila can be trusted to broker a deal since the Judiciary and Parliament have let us down,” Muugu said.

Last month, macadamia farmers in Embu threatened to protest strict regulations blocking better prices. They said they are prevented from exporting and getting better prices.

The farmers said the rule that macadamia must be harvested and sold in a certain period hurts them since they grow different varieties maturing at various times. They said if the rules are implemented, farmers will be completely blocked from selling macadamia.

The farmers want anyone who wants a drier to be allowed to have one. They demanded the nuts be bought at Sh300 per kilo instead of the current Sh140. They said the world market dictates the nuts should not be sold for less than the amount.

Farmers accused politicians who have interests in macadamia of drafting laws that suit them.

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