By Joshua Kato
As macadamia gradually becomes a cash crop in Uganda, Amafh Farms, the leading grower and exporter has called upon Ugandans to grab an opportunity for 200,000 seedlings, which they are giving out to out-growers.
The seedlings are being offered in partnership with the Government of Uganda’s effort to promote macadamia growing in the country.
“All those who want to grow macadamia are free to register with us so that they benefit from this opportunity,” Shayaan Morvi, one of the managers at Amafh farm says.
Amafh is the largest macadamia farm in the country and one of the largest in East Africa.
The seedlings are free of charge and will come with extension services.
He says that when sold, macadamia seedling is at sh10, 000 and a farmer requires about 100 seedlings for an acre.
A kilogram of macadamia nuts goes for between sh3,000 and 4,000.
A farmer can earn sh30m+ from an acre per year as the tree reaches maturity.
“Growing macadamia trees has far-reaching benefits that go beyond economics. For example, through growing macadamia trees, the country’s carbon footprint decreases, helping combat one of the world’s biggest problems right now, climate change,” he says.
In the international market, macadamia nuts also go by the name ‘brown gold’ due to it’s nutritional and economic value.
“We have 700 acres under macadamia. We are also supporting 1,000 farmers across the country, but we need at least 40,000 out-growers if we are to achieve our target,” says Morvi.
He says that the farm produces at least 3,000 metric tonnes of macadamia, most of which is exported.
“We train farmers, give them seedlings and then buy back the produce from them,” Morvi says.
Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) started promoting macadamia as one of the new priority crops in the country.
The nuts are the fruits of macadamia trees, a species of evergreen trees indigenous to Australia.
Macadamias were introduced to Hawaii in 1880 and were established in 1930 as a commercial crop.
The countries growing macadamia on large scale include Australia, Brazil, Israel, Thailand and the United States. In Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda.
Each tree will give two kilograms per season in the beginning.
When a tree gets to seven years, you get from 15-20kgs per season. At 10 years, it is 60-80kgs from each tree every season.
Morvi says macadamia has several products that are made out of it. These include cooking oil, as an ingredient in cookies, chocolate and ice cream, among others. The leaves can be used as animal feed, and the hard seed coat can be used for cooking.
According to MAAIF figures, in 2019, Uganda sold 201 tonnes of macadamia nuts. For 2019, the market for Uganda macadamia nuts increased by 183.099% compared to about 80 tonnes in 2018.
Macadamia nuts’ exports grew by 139.29% netting the nation US$0.54m for the year 2019.
Eva Rwangpako, a starting macadamia farmer says that the new crop offers wider opportunities as it improves earnings.
“It is very interesting and I look forward to being a farmer of macadamia,” she says.
According to Morvi, the varieties used are the Kenyan selections namely Muranga (MRG20), Kirinyaga (KRG15), Embu (EMBU1) and Kembu (KMB3), because they are high yielding and their breeding lines can easily be traced.
Macadamias prefer fertile, well-drained soils, rainfall of 1,000–2,000 mm (40–80 in), and temperatures not falling below 10 °C, although once established, they can withstand light frosts, with an optimum temperature of 25 °C.
Inter-planting with two cultivars, such as 344 and 660, improves yield through cross-pollination. This means that they can be grown across most of Uganda, apart from Karamoja.
A farmer can start with as low as one acre of land and make a profit.
However, because it is a long-term crop, growing it on hired land may turn out to be troublesome in the long run, since the contract for the lease may end before the farmer earns good profits.
When planting, the hole has to be 2 by two feet with a spacing of 8 metres by 8 metres.
In other words, on one acre if you are to plant other crops, you plant between 100 trees of macadamia. Macadamia has two seasons a year that is October to March and from June to August.
-You can integrate apiary around the orchard. This can generate additional revenue through honey production, but also improve the pollination process.
-To avoid over-weeding, introduce low grazers like sheep. This helps to reduce herbicide use and weeding costs.
-Intercropping macadamia nuts with other crops is one way to generate early returns. Commonly, coffee is sometimes grown between macadamia nut trees.