KENYA – The Kenyan government has initiated the review process for the proposed Coconut and Cashew Nut Bill, 2023, aimed at revitalizing the cashew nut and coconut sectors in the coastal regions of the country.

The bill, sponsored by Kilifi North MP Owen Baya, aims at introducing comprehensive regulations governing the production, processing, marketing, grading, storage, transportation, and warehousing of coconut and cashew nuts.

Key provisions of the bill include the establishment of the Coconut and Cashew Nut Board of Kenya, tasked with overseeing the regulation, production, grading, storage, auctioning, marketing, research, and development of these essential crops.

Members of Parliament supporting the bill have voiced concerns over the declining state of coconut and cashew nut farming and production in coastal regions.

“We should appreciate these two cash crops. They are on the decline. If we get a body that can focus on the production of coconuts and cashew nuts, we can revive the sector. The Climate in the coastal region is conducive for these crops. I urge my colleagues to give this bill the attention it deserves.”

They argued that these crops have significant potential to improve the livelihoods of communities in coastal rural areas and transition them into middle-income economic status through the cashew value chain.

“The global coconut industry has faced a downward trend over the past two decades,” Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi said.

“One contributing factor is the reduced productivity of ageing coconut palms, which can drop to as low as 40% when these palms reach the age of 60. The situation in the cashew nut sector is no better, with production declining since the late 1970s.”

The collapse of the Kenya Cashew Nut Factory, a subsidiary of Kenya Cashew Nut Limited (KCL), in 1997 due to mismanagement significantly impacted the cashew nut industry.

In 2009, a ban on the export of raw cashews and macadamia nuts further hindered the sector’s growth. More recently, in June 2022, the Departmental Committee on Agriculture and Livestock considered a public petition to revive the Kenya Cashew Nuts Factory.

Cashew production in Kenya has traditionally been one of the main sources of livelihood for coastal regions and is cultivated in Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Mombasa, and Lamu Counties.

The industry directly employs around 4,000 people and indirectly supports the livelihoods of approximately 50,000 individuals.

Cashew nuts, often referred to as “white gold” globally, are a prized commodity known for their high value. They fetch excellent prices in international markets, making them an essential foreign exchange earner for many countries.

In Africa, the continent produces 60% of the world’s total raw cashew nuts (RCN), providing a significant source of foreign exchange earnings from agriculture in countries such as Tanzania, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Benin, Guinea Bissau, and Nigeria.