KENYA – The European Union has launched a US$2.37 million cashewnut and sesame value chain project to revive the ailing industry after the collapse of the sole processor at the Kenyan Coast, Kenya Cashewnuts Factory.
Revival of the new factory, now under the management of the Millennium Nuts Company, brings hope for 15,000 farmers in Kilifi, Kwale and Lamu counties, reported the Nation.
While some blamed the collapse of the company on its privatization in 1993, the EU Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Stefano Antonio Dejac said the projected aimed at addressing challenges faced by more than 100, 000 farmers.
Speaking on the matter, Kilifi governor, Amason Kingi said shares were bought fraudulently by an investor and used as a collateral for a bank loan.
According to him, at its potential, the factory had 3,000 workers and processed more than 30,000 tonnes of cashew annually.
“So huge was the industry that farmers controlled 45 per cent of its stake, with the government having the rest,” said Mr. Kingi.
“Shares were bought fraudulently by an investor before they were used as collateral for a bank loan.
When the company failed to repay the loan, the factory was sold for Sh50 million. Even what remained of the factory was sold as spares for other processors like the cashew nut plant in Mtwara, Tanzania.”
Efforts to revive the industry in the recent past have always faced challenges including lack of commitment by the government, farmers’ unwillingness to plant hybrid orchard, aging trees and lack of market.
Through a five-year program, the EU will provide funds to a Kenyan Agricultural company, Tenses Africa to supply more than one million cashew seedlings to the farmers in the counties.
To help the cashew nut industry which collapsed more than three decades ago to bloom again, Kilifi county government has committed itself to plant five million trees throughout the region in addition to rejuvenating another 2 million orchards through topping and grafting.
Then, the cashew nut industry contribution to the country’s GDP was said to be almost 4%.
The project will help in establishing cashewnut plantations and introduction of hybrid cashew variety which matures fast.
The ambassador added that there was enough market for cashewnuts in Europe as that 20% of Kenya’s exports end up in the EU.