Macadamia: Farming the Most Expensive Nuts in the World

freshly picked macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are regarded as the most expensive nuts at $25 per pound, and are continously breaking price records due to increasing demand that exceeds available supply. Macadamia nuts have a high cholestorel-free fat content and palmitoleic acid relevant for improving the body's metabolism.

In east africa, Kenya has become the third biggest producer of macadamia nuts globally, whose farmers are cashing in this lucrative crop rather than the failing coffee business. Other major macadamia producers are Australia, origin of the macadamia trees and South Africa, besides which growing macadamia is quite is not done in many parts in Africa.

READ: 20 Ways to Make $25,000 per month running an Agricultural Business

This is suitable and profitable area without competition, that a young farmer would do well to research and invest in getting a hybrid trees that mature faster to cash in the lucrative macadamia business, as visit to macadamia farmer demonstrates.

Macadamia nuts inside cracked shell @youthinfarming.org

Macadamia farm in Kenya

The farm journal visit to Macadamia farm of David Jesse in Kiambu county, Kenya 4.5 acre farm. Here are they key takeaways:

  • Weather conditions: Macadamia grows well in altitude of 1500 to 2000 meters above sea level. And requires rainfall of between 700-2600 ml, temp 15-29 degrees centigrade and fertile sandy loamy soils of ph betwen 5.5 to 6.5. Well kept trees produce up to 80 kilograms per tree.

  • Macadamia content and growth: macadamia trees grow to 20 meters high, with fragrant pink and white flowers suceeded by a bunch of about 20 green fruit, with a shell difficult to crack. The nut, within the shell, is white in colour and rich in vitamins B6, fatty acids, protein, Iron and magnesium (key for improving metabolism and strengthening bones). Planting spacing of 7.5m - 10meters with an acre containing 70 trees in total. 

  • Growth and Harvesting: Propagated through grafting while trees planted directly take seven years before producing first fruit. Some grafted varieties start to yield fruit from 2-3 years. After flowering, it takes 6-8months to mature. Ready nuts are harvested, shells removed and dried within 24 hours of harvesting. Macadamia flowering in July and harvesting may-june.

Be sure to watch Part 2 and Part 3 where the macadamia farmer, David Jesse, gets interviewed on challenges, benefits and best varieties to plant for maximum profit. Key take-aways summarised below:

  • Total trees: There are 240 macadamia trees in total on farm. Production per trees goes up and down. A single tree can produce 200 kilogram (moranga 20 species). 

  • Fertiliser: If theres a lot of rain and not enough sunshine, then trees do not produce as expected, and produced 6 tonnes at lowest levels. And without fertiliser got 13-14 tonnes, but with fertilisers got up to 20 tonnes of nuts per year. In 2019, farmer got 6 tonnes and buying rate 215 kes.

  • Reason for farming: farmer planted macadamia trees for over 11 years as a retirement plan to help pay bills when he  can no longer work.

  • Initial capital got from transport job of about 100,000 kenyan shillings (kes) injected into planting macadamia trees. Waited for 3.5 years, and irrigated trees due to dry season. Local youth provide labour to take care of farm including harvesting.

  • Challenges: 
    • rats come to eat macadamia fruit, solution is to tie iron sheets around tree stem, so rat falls off when it tries to climb tree. 
    • And not enough space (land) to plant trees thus producing less.
    • Kiambu 3 was very tall and difficult to harvest, and decided to an improved breed which is shorter and easier to harvest fruit (moranga 20 species)

  • Market: so many people willing to buy macadamia. If you have a huge produce, companies buying are willing to buy at higher rate. Rate is normally between 80-200 kes per kilo.

In summary, growing macadamia trees for the delicious and crunchy fatty nuts they produce is profitable and increasing in demand globally. Be sure to do your own research on the best grafted macadamia tree seedlings that mature faster and not so tall making harvesting the nuts difficult. This appears to be virgin territory with little to no competition, just as the insect protect market of farming crickets and black soldier fly currently is. See you when you are making money in agriculture!

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