KENYA – Kenyan farmers in the eastern region are set to benefit from a deal signed between Meru County and Slovakia that will fund a macadamia nursery expected to produce 200,000 seedlings annually.

Kiraitu Murungi, the governor Meru country said that the initiative is set to boost production in the macadamia sector – which has in the recent past recorded significant dynamics.

“The cost of seedlings is high at Sh350 (US$3.5) each and farmers cannot afford them. With the nursery we will be able to provide farmers with seedlings and increase the current production,” Murungi said.

Slovakia ambassador to Kenya Frantisek Dlhopolcek expressed his government’s commitment in the project, as it seeks to increase production of the commodity to bridge the high demands in Europe.

 “There is a high demand of the nuts in Europe … we will work with the county government and set up a processing plant in Meru,” Frantisek added.

Macadamia nuts prices improved to a high of US$2 a kilo due to high demand in international markets.

The region is also set to benefit from a nut processing factory through a US$3 million investment from a German based investor.

Kenya and Slovakia have in the past engaged in efforts to boost the agricultural sector focusing on increasing exports of commodities affirmed by the recent investments by Slovakian investors in the country.

According to data from Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NutPAK), the sector has managed to increase the production capacity from 11000 metric tonnes and four processors in 2009 to over 40,000 metric tonnes and 30 processors.

The major players in the sector include Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company, MacFarms, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp, Nambucca Macnuts and Wondaree Macadamia Nuts, Eastern Produce, Golden Macadamias, Ivory Macadamias, Kenya Nut Company, Macadamia Processing Company, Mayo Macs and MWT Foods Australia.

In 2009, the country banned exportation of raw nuts from the country in a move to boost the sector through value addition.

Additionally, the country has also embarked on other strategies including the recent ban on harvesting of nuts and oil crops between November 30 and February 15 every year to allow for maturity- all geared to ensure the sector records optimal growth.