NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 9 – The government will regulate the exportation of raw cashew nuts as a way of encouraging the development of local industries, processing factories and job creation.
Agriculture Minister William Ruto told reporters on Thursday that the exportation of unprocessed nuts had for many years undermined local production and processing.
“This is an industry that used to employ 5,000 Kenyans. Today all those jobs have been lost because we allowed the export of raw nuts. It is against public interest to export unprocessed nuts and that’s why we are seriously considering regulating the exportation of nuts in such a state,” he said.
Although he did not specify how this would be done, it is believed that sale of raw nuts will only be done when the need arise.
The government had imposed a ban on raw nuts export last year but this did not go down well with farmers who argued that the move would not have any impact since the country lacks the processing capacity.
This followed the collapse of the Kilifi Cashew Nuts Processing Factory (which now has 20 staff down from 3,000) in the early 1990s and the consequent sale to a private company in unclear circumstances. This meant that the farmers were deprived of a structured market for their produce and they therefore turned to middlemen.
Total cashew nut production stands at 10,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) and comes from approximately two million cashew nuts trees. However, 50 percent of these nuts are sold in raw form while only about six percent is process locally.
Ruto however reiterated the government commitment to turn around the nuts industry which has the potential to produce 120,000 MT and contribute Sh3 billion annually to the country’s coffers. About 60,000 farmers are engaged in the production and they are currently fetching about Sh260 million annually from the cash crop which is planted on 30,000 hectares of land.
Towards this end, the Minister announced the setting up of a five-member taskforce to consolidate stakeholders’ views and advice on the way forward.
The team, which was given two weeks to come up with the recommendations, is among other things expected to propose how the government can own a stake in the Kilifi factory with a view to streamlining its operations.
“They should discuss with the current owners (of the factory) how to create a public private partnership so that government can buy into the plant,” he directed the taskforce members who were present at the press briefing.
The government has in the past put in place measures such as the provision of spraying equipment to farmer and staff training on cashew nut management to revive the industry which have not borne fruits.
Stakeholders however reckon that there is a need to develop a cashew nut policy to guide production, processing and marketing of the crop as well as promote cottage industries in order to add value to the produce.