The Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NutPak) says the country is losing more than 40% of its annual macadamia nut production to smugglers who export the commodity through Tanzania to China.
The alleged exports are in violation of a government moratorium on macadamia exports. It was imposed following complaints that some unscrupulous farmers and traders were exporting immature crops. It is due to expire on 20 February.
NutPak Director Charles Muigai said the recent arrest and deportation of 11 illegal Chinese dealers who were found with large quantities of immature nuts demonstrated the need for tighter controls, to ensure compliance with the export ban.
“More than 10 tons of macadamia are smuggled to China annually, yet local factories are working only half a year due to lack of raw materials,” he said.
Muigai said Chinese traders were incentivised to buy and smuggle the crop because when they get back home, they earn a 25% government rebate for importing a high value commodity that is in short supply.
According to the Kenyan Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), the widespread harvesting of immature macadamia nuts is the cause for rejection of up to 10% of the annual produce by factories down the value chain.
Kenya produces an estimated 35 000 tons of macadamia nuts annually. It is the third largest global producer of the crop after Australia and South Africa.