Farmers lament shortage of macadamia seedlings

The price for one seedling has been rising gradually, from Rwf600 in 2006 to Rwf1,500 in 2016 before climbing to Rwf5,000 currently.
Residents march to plant macadamia seedlings in Rwabicuma Sector, Nyanza District. (File)

Farm gate prices for raw macadamia nuts increased from Rwf800 to Rwf2,000 per kilogramme in just one year, increasing the prospects of higher incomes for farmers.

However, the shortage of seedlings which was occasioned by the high demand as more farmers turn to macadamia to shore up their incomes has pushed up prices.

The price for one seedling has been rising gradually, from Rwf600 in 2006 to Rwf1,500 in 2016 before climbing to Rwf5,000 currently.

Now farmers say that they may be discouraged from growing the crop because of the steep rise in prices, which increases their cost of production.

Macadamia nuts still in shells.

“The nuts are scarce on the market,” said Norce Elysée Gatarayiha, the head of Norelga Macadamia, one of the enterprises that pioneered macadamia farming and processing in Rwanda.

Célestin Gashugi, a macadamia farmer in Ngoma District, Eastern Province told The New Times that in September 2018, he harvested about 200 kilogrammes from his 30 macadamia trees, which earned him Rwf400,000.

However, he also decried the shortage and the high cost of seedlings. He is considering to borrow money from the bank to invest in the production of seedlings.

“We grew macadamia in 2006 without well understanding its value and profitability, it was like a trial. But, now, we have realised that it profitable,” Gatarayiha said.

Gérardine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources told The New Times that this year over 90,000 seedlings were prepared and distributed.

She said the government will encourage farmers to increase planting of the crop because it has high demand on the international market.

During a recent stakeholders’ meeting, the minister said that government will increase the supply of seedlings in the first farming season of 2020.

“We believe that the cost will be lowered by having more seedlings available and a number of seedling producers (including the youth) are taking advantage of this opportunity,” the Minister said.

High global demand

Globally, there’s a 60 per cent supply shortage of macadamia compared to the demand.

“We have a challenge of raw material, even if a person tells me that they can get 100 containers of macadamia for me, [I can buy them as], I have a ready market,” Gatarayiha who process around 100 tonnes last year, pointed out.

In Rwanda macadamia is used to produce macadamia oil, cookies and soap among other products.

Gatarayiha says the crop can be used to diversify the country’s exports currently dominated by coffee, tea and minerals.

On the international market, he added, a kilogramme of macadamia nuts costs between $4 (Rwf3, 500) and$5 (Rwf4, 400), while processed nuts are between $20 and $25, observing that there is no other product in agroprocessing that generates more money.