James Muhoro

James Muhoro, the Field Operation Director in-charge of macadamia and peanut programme at Batian Limited.

| Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

What it takes to reap big from peanuts

What you need to know:

  • James Muhoro is the Field Operation Director in-charge of macadamia and peanut programme at Batian Ltd, which processes the two nuts. 
  • He spoke to Seeds of Gold on how smallholder farmers can reap from both macadamia and peanuts.

When it comes to export of nuts, macadamia is the most popular. Paint a picture of the groundnuts situation

Most of the groundnuts consumed locally come from Uganda and Malawi, which means there is a huge gap that local farmers need to fill.

Locally, groundnuts are mainly grown in Siaya, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Bungoma, Kisumu, Migori, Vihiga, Kisii and Busia counties in western, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Isiolo and Machakos in eastern, Kwale, Lamu, Tana River and Taita Taveta at the Coast while in Rift Valley, the nuts are farmed in Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, West Pokot and Baringo counties and lastly, in central Kenya in parts of Murang’a. 

The country produces over 4,000 tonnes of peanuts annually. Kenya is a net importer though, bringing in over 2,000 tonnes valued at more than Sh200 million. Alongside peanuts, farmers can also grow macadamia and cashew nuts both, which we add value. Macadamia grows well in lower parts of Meru and Tharaka Nithi, while cashew nuts at the Coast. 

A good percentage of peanuts produced in the country are roasted and sold in small quantities of as low as Sh10. Could this be the reason why the industry has stagnated?

No, that is far from the truth. It has to do with the market segment. The reason why the market has stagnated is due to low production. Most processors import the produce from Uganda and Malawi. 

What should farmers do to grow aflatoxin-free peanuts? 

Farmers should not delay harvesting their produce. Immediately after harvesting, they should remove the pods and dry the grains for five days as soon as possible. When harvesting, especially using a hoe, they should be careful to avoid damaging the pods.

And when drying, use a polythene sheet, canvas, tarpaulin, mats, cemented grounds or raised structures. Farmers should also avoid mixing diseased or infected pods with healthy ones. They should also separate immature pods as well as those infested with pests and diseases from good ones during shelling. 

They can shell using their hands or shellers designed for groundnuts. Farmers are also advised to remove dust and foreign materials which can be a source of contamination. 

Place the produce in clean gunny bags for storage in a cool, dry place that is well-ventilated, with low humidity and care should be taken not to expose the nuts to moisture during transportation and marketing. Control of insects and rodents during storage is key as well as planting certified aflatoxin-free seeds that offer one good market. 

Theft of macadamia nuts before harvest is becoming a concern for farmers as demand grows in the international market, what can be done to tame the menace?

Those who are buying should been keen to know the source of the nuts. They should not buy from anyone in the market. Buyers should have a connection with the farmers. If you contract farmers, you minimise theft and eliminate brokers who are pushing farmers to harvest premature nuts.

When it comes to macadamia farming, where do farmers go wrong?

Most farmers put little effort in caring of their trees at an early stage. They don’t use certified seeds, they don’t have post-harvest handling skills on how to preserve and thresh the seeds. They don’t do pruning at the right time and use enough and recommended fertilisers.

How can groundnut farmers commercialise their ventures?

Training is key. For instance, in conjunction with Egerton University, Kilimo Trust and 2 SCALE, we train farmers on how to produce the crops. Farmers should grow certified seeds and know how to fight pests and diseases. 

How can farmers sell their produce to Batian?

They can contact us as individuals or groups. We buy from as low as five kilos to increase the number of farmers we are working with. The price ranges from Sh80 to Sh100 per kilo. Our demand for groundnuts is about 1,000 tonnes annually but farmers deliver only 500 tonnes.