BY MAZERA NDURYA and MWAKERA MWAJEFA
Cashew nut processing is the next phase in the revival of the defunct cashew nut industry being implemented in Kilifi, Kwale and Lamu Counties with the support from the Visegrad countries of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia through the partnership with the European Union.
Speaking when he met Slovak Republic ambassador Frantisek Dlhopolicek, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi expressed confidence in the project after receiving overwhelming interest from local cashew nut farmers.
The meeting with the ambassador in Kilifi on June 14, 2019 reviewed the progress made in the implementation of the cashew revival scheme that was launched last year.
The launch of the cashew nuts and Sesame value chain project in Tezo, Kilifi County has been described as a giant leap of hope to the more than 15,000 farmers of Kilifi, Kwale and Lamu counties.
For farmers across the three coastal counties, the project to revive the once vibrant cashew nut industry couldn’t come at a better time since the collapse and closure of Kenya Cashewnut Factory at Kibarani over 20 years ago.
AT ITS PEAK
At its peak in the 1980s, the cashew industry was contributing to the gross domestic product (GDP) about 4 per cent. In 1982, Kenya Cashewnut Ltd made a net profit of Ksh26 million ($325,000) up from Ksh3 million ($37,500) in 1975.
However, mismanagement of factory led its privatisation in 1993 and eventually closure in 1998 dealing a devastative blow to Coastal farmers whose livelihood had for years depended on the crop.
But Governor Kingi is optimistic the cashewnut revival plan is big and as a county they have put a very elaborate programme that will see farmers plant new trees as well as upgrade their old trees through top dressing.
“We are targeting to plant over 900, 000 seedlings and it is encouraging to note that the campaign is going on well despite the few challenges that were experienced as a result of erratic rains,” he said.
According to the governor Kilifi has an advantage that there is the existence of more than two million old trees that will enable farmers have an earlier crop to feed the factory as the new trees mature in the next three years.
On his part, the ambassador said the programme is not just about planting cashewnut trees but build a robust industry that will change the lives of people through wealth and job creation.
“The factory built within the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) will ensure that the entire nut being processed will be for the export market,” he added.
The whole idea, according to Mr Dlhopolicek, is to remove the middlemen in the value chain so that farmers can reap maximum benefits.
“Kilifi already has an existing crop and going by the project plan it will ensure that the factory has enough nuts to process,” he said.
The factory will buy the nuts directly from the farmers thereby doing away with middlemen who have over the years been exploiting the farmers.
The ambassador added that with the addition of simsim in the programme, it will be easier to make the factory busy even when there is a slump in production of cashewnut.
“By January we will have the factory processing the nut in Kilifi. The factory will buy the nuts from farmers and have about 300 people working. Simsim is part of the project and therefore the factory will run to capacity,” he added
All the nuts will be for export since the factory will be based on the EPZ within Mtwapa area.
Reiterating the same, Mr Kingi said, the factory will purely be for the export market adding that the plans are underway to have the ground breaking ceremony for the construction by October this year.
Statistics indicate that Kenya’s production of cashewnut then has been in decline from 24,000 tonnes (5.9 per cent of world production) in 1969-71 to 16,500 tonnes (4.2 per cent) in 1979-81 to 10,300 tonnes (2.2 per cent) in 1989-91. The current acreage is estimated at 30,921 hectares.
Although cashew contributes only 1 per cent of Kenya’s total agricultural production, the sector is at its lowest ebb following a series of problems in production, marketing and processing.