By Charles Ogallo.
Cashewnut farmers in Lamu County have called on the national government to intervene and help lift a ban forbidding them from selling the crop to the outside market.
The more than 10,000 farmers from Lamu’s main cashewnut growing zones of Mpeketoni, Baharini, Kiongwe, Tewa, Hongwe, Uziwa, Telelani, Witu and Faza said since the ban was imposed in the country eight years ago, the crop produce has accumulated and that they have no ready markets for it.
The ban was imposed by Deputy President William Ruto on July 30, 2009 who was by then the Agriculture Minister.
The ban was imposed on exportation of raw cashewnuts as a move to revive the local industry.
Following the ban, the government has given the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) the sole authority to buy raw nuts from farmers.
Led by Lamu Cashewnut Farmers Association spokesperson who is also Nominated MCA in the Lamu County Assembly Mr Joseph Githuku, the farmers now say their produce has no ready market and called on the government to lift the ban and allow them sell the now surplus produce to the foreign markets.
Mr Githuku said as a result of the ban cashewnut prices had drastically gone down and have continued to dwindle.
“Every store and granary is full of cashewnuts here. Basically every farmer has them stocked up and others going stale.We are urging the government to now lift that ban. It’s hurting us. We have lost millions as a result,” said Mr Githuku.
The farmers feel the removal of the ban will expand the cashewnut market and also improve the pricing of the crop.
“Before the ban, we used to sell our cashewnuts at Sh 70 a kilo. Since the imposition of the ban in 2009, the price had dropped. A kilo goes for as low as Sh 30 and customers are very few who are also buying in small quantity for subsistence use only,” said Mr Githuku
On his side, Mr Titus Ngugi called on the county government to establish a cashewnut processing industry in Lamu to save the sector from collapse.
He also urged the county government to intervene and assist them find market for their produce.
“If the county government can establish a cashew-nut industry here in Mpeketoni, then it will be easier for us to process raw cashew-nuts within our area before looking for market outside,” said Mr Ngugi.
Cashew-nuts are largely grown in Coast Province and the sector has potential to create employment through value addition.
Since the collapse of the Kilifi Cashewnut Factory in the mid-1990s however, production of cashew-nuts drastically went down as farmers feel discouraged by high costs of farm inputs and lack of guaranteed markets.