While opportunities to create employment, and incomes abound in the nuts and oil crops subsector, Kenya produces only 34% of its edible oils and fat requirements. As such the country remains a net importer of vegetable oils as local production has not grown to meet the local demand. For instance the country’s vegetable oil requirement is estimated to be 600,000 metric tons valued at over KES 54 billion. About 95 percent of this is in form of palm oil, which is imported mainly from South-East Asian countries. This scenario makes Kenya to heavily depend on importation, high import bill and foreign exchange drain notwithstanding.
As regards nuts, Kenya has a total installed processing capacity of over 80,000 tonnes per annum (TPA) for export oriented macadamia, groundnuts and cashew nuts. But only about 30,000 TPA of these nuts are processed. This production gives rise to about KES 6.005 billion. It is instructive to note that if the installed capacity is utilized, there is a potential of realizing over KES18 billion annually from processing macadamia, groundnuts and cashew nuts. These nuts are widely consumed in Europe and USA where they are further value added hence are good export products for the country.
Thus to take advantage of the many opportunities that abound in the subsector, dissemination of these opportunities to stakeholders is warranted. It is hoped that by so doing, stakeholders will be well informed to take advantage of those opportunities to establish and enhance vibrant enterprises. These enterprises will in turn not only manufacture products for local consumption but also for the export market. In bid to appreciate these opportunities consider the following:
Palm Oil: About 95% of the oil imports in Kenya comprise crude palm oil from Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia). A program to reduce overdependence on imported crude oil was initiated in 2002 which saw the introduction of cold tolerant oil palm varieties in western part of Kenya from Costa Rica. Currently, the total oil palm population in Kenya stands at 130,000 trees. This give rise to 13,704,593 metric tonnes of fresh fruit bunch that yield 2,741 metric tonnes of palm oil. This is still very low to meet the country’s demand.Challenges of inadequate planting material, and inefficient processing technologies have adversely affected the small scale farmers in the subsector. However collaborative efforts to negate this challenge are underway.
Sunflower: The oil content of sunflower seed ranges between 37-44 % used for both domestic and industrial uses. It is currently used as edible oil. The cake arising from pressing the oil gives rise to animal feed. Sunflower oil has potential to be used for the manufacturing of soaps, varnishes, and paints.Farmers though have been less motivated to grow the crop because of the low prices it is fetching. Coupled to this is the importation of crude sunflower oil that further demotivates farmers. Nonetheless, collaborative efforts are underway to revamp the potential in the subsector.
Sesame: Current annual production stands at 12,695 tons which is inadequate to satisfy the local demand. Sesame has an oil content of about 44-45 percent. Past attempts to promote sesame for oil extraction have not been successful due to high labour requirements at harvesting and competition from confectionery industries. However there is renewed vigour to bolster sesame production as overseas inquiries have yielded actual periodic demand of sesame in excess of 500 metric tons per month as a start.
Groundnuts: Kenya only produces about 20 percent of ground nuts required by local processing plants, yet it has the potential to produce more. As such most of it is imported from Malawi and Uganda to bridge the gap. Groundnut is mostly processed in cottage factories to make roasted snacks, peanut butter and confectionery products. There is increasing demand for these products not only in Kenya but also outside the country hence making ground nuts a lucrative export product.
Macadamia: Macadamia nuts are processed by up to twenty five (25) companies in Kenya for export and local consumption. It should be noted that the many value added products derived from it such as macadamia oil, chocolate, charcoal briquettes, and confectionery products, has increased demand for macadamia. Export endeavors in here can therefore not be overemphasized.
Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) through NOCD has since become a member of International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC). This membership is envisioned will help bolster the macadamia subsector. INC is an international source for information on nuts and dried fruits for: Health, Nutrition, Food Safety, Statistics, Government Standards and Government regulations regarding trade barriers and trade quality standards. INC endorses activities that provide its membership new opportunities for increasing global consumption of almonds, apricot kernels, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts and dried fruits.
Cashew nuts: Demand for processed cashew nuts and its accompanying value added products is increasing steadily. These nuts are in high demand in Germany and Nordic countries hence warranting investing in them.
Just as in macadamia, the joining of AFA-NOCD to INC is expected will bolster cashew nut production and value addition. It should be noted that AFA-NOCD has also joined African Cashew Alliance (ACA) in a bid to develop the cashew subsector in Kenya. ACA was established in 2006 as an association of African and international businesses with an interest in promoting a globally competitive African cashew industry. Today, nearly 130 member companies work under the ACA banner and represent all aspects of the cashew value chain, including producers, processors, traders, and international buyers. The objectives of the Alliance are to:
- Increase processing of cashew within Africa;
- Improve competitiveness and sustainability of the African cashew industry;
- Facilitate public-private cooperation for the cashew sector.