Nuts and Oil Crops subsector is important as source of raw and processed nuts, edible oil, animal feed and industrial oil. In Kenya, the major oilseeds produced are sunflower, simsim, soya bean, rapeseed, coconut, castor, oil palm, safflower, groundnuts.

Among the nuts grown in Kenya, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, ground nuts (peanuts) and Bambara nuts are the most important. Other nuts grown to a very limited scale are betel nuts, chestnuts, walnuts and hazel nuts. Kenya’s nuts which are largely used as confectionary comprise cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts and Bambara nuts. Kenya is a net exporter of nuts, mainly comprising of Macadamias.

Kenya has over thirty (30) edible oil processing companies engaged in oil milling, solvent extraction, refining and hydrogenation with a combined installed oil extraction capacity of about 265,500 tonnes per annum (TPA) and about 342,000 TPA refining capacity. As regards nuts, Kenya has a total installed processing capacity of 103,000TPA for export oriented macadamia and cashew nuts and comprising of over thirty (30) companies involved in nuts processing.


Macadamia nuts were introduced into Thika, in the central part of the country in 1942. Early Settlers from Australia introduced this tree to the Kenyan highlands and the result was an excellent blend of Australian Macadamias in the unique Kenyan environment. By 1960 the Government had an elaborate program of promoting macadamia from seeds that were planted and nurseries set up. These seed nuts were brought as shade crop for coffee to perform better in reduced temperature. By 1966 a lot of nuts had been planted in Central Kenya. The nuts are grown both as a cash crop and foreign exchange earner.

There are two main varieties of macadamia grown in M. integrifolia and M. tetraphylla  M. tetraphylla is preferred for its ability to germinate uniformly, grow faster, and are considered somewhat easier to graft and transplant and produces slightly spindle shaped nuts.

Macadamia Utilization

Macadamia is considered the world’s finest dessert nut because of its delicate taste and numerous health benefits, it is the king of the nuts. The nuts are enjoyed in variant ways with the most popular being an exciting gourmet snack. It can be enjoyed as roasted and salted table nuts, honey coated or chocolate covered nuts. Macadamia nut chips are blended into breads, cookies, biscuits, pastries, ice-cream, bakery toppings etc.

Sub-sector performance

Kenya is the third largest exporter of macadamia after Australia and South Africa. It is grown by an estimated 200,000 smallholder macadamia farmers across the country while the rest is cultivated under plantation farms.

Macadamia Value chain players in Kenya are organized into well-structured associations such as the Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NUTPAK), Nuts traders’ association of Kenya (NUTAK), Nuts Growers association of Kenya (NGAK) making the Macadamia sub-sector a well-coordinated sector towards sustainable growth.

Over the years, Kenya has increased its competiveness in terms of macadamia nut exports which account for 93 percent of its total production to USA, Germany, Netherlands, China and Hong Kong and among others.

Sub-sector Data (2019)

Planted Area (Ha)


Production volume - Raw Nuts in shell (Tons)                                    


Export volume - Kernel basis (Tons)               


Export value  in Millions (Ksh)                     


Ecological Requirements

Kenyan macadamia nuts are grown in the mineral rich highland. The crop has been predominantly grown in: Kiambu, Muran’ga, Meru, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Taita Taveta Counties, however there is ongoing expansion into the rift valley and Western Kenya regions

Soils: Macadamias will grow on a wide range of soils but perform best on well-drained soils, preferably 1-2 m deep and high in organic matter with optimum soil pH in the range of 5.0-6.0.

Altitude: Areas between 1,450-1,900 MASL

Rainfall: Annual rainfall 1,200-1,800 mm

Temperatures: 15-28 degrees C

Commonly Used Macadamia Grades



Style 0-Super Premium Whole Kernels

Comprising no less than 95% large whole  (+20mm) kernel, carefully screened to ensure consistency of color, texture and size


Style 1 - Premium Whole Kernels

Consisting of a minimum 95% whole kernel with a size range from 17mm to 20mm.


Style 2 - Premium Wholes & Halves

A 50/50 mixture of whole kernel and large halves ranging in size from 13mm upwards.


Style 3 - Premium Cocktail Mix

Almost all half kernels or larger, with an average size larger than 13mm.


Style 4L - Premium Large Halves

Premium large halves and pieces are the perfect sizing for retail snack packs. This size is most commonly used for creating the ‘flavored’ snacks such as chilli & wasabi etc, screening not less than 13mm, with 85% half kernels.


Style 4S - Premium Small Halves

Approximately 25% half kernels. Style 4S ranging of between 11mm and 13mm

Style 5 - Premium Large Chips

Sizes 4mm to 9mm

Style 7 - Premium Small Chips

Sizes 4mm to 6mm.

Style 8 - Premium Fine Chips

98% pass through a 4mm screen, producing 3mm to 5mm sizing.

Quality and Safety

The nut processors and exporters in Kenya have dedicated themselves to high level product quality standards through instituting quality checkpoints at each processing stage. The processors employ the best practices in manufacturing and processing that include: guaranteeing traceability of the final product right to its original phase. As a boost to the check on quality, the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate in Kenya ensures compliance of the nut processors with internationally accepted product quality and safety standards.

Regulating the Kenyan Macadamia industry

The Directorate regulates the industry by registering and licensing all players in the value chain, currently, there are 25 licensed macadamia processors in Kenya. Further, the Directorate carries out regular inspections on the stakeholders to ensure compliance to industry regulations and standards.

During inspections food safety standards are strictly enforced while at the same time adhering to the industry code of practice and fair trade requirements. The inspectors ensure processors are certified for specific destination markets and carry out hazard analysis at critical control points.