Macadamia nuts: Tanzania’s future green gold

11Jan 2021
Marc Nkwame
Arusha
The Guardian
Macadamia nuts: Tanzania’s future green gold

​​​​​​​SOME years before the country’s independence a team of missionaries brought alien seedlings from Australia and introduced what would be seen as strange trees in Lushoto District, Tanga Region.

However, the new trees later yielded robust round green fruits with hard brown shells inside and when cracked , they would produce sweet, whiteish butter-like substances that are now popularly known as ‘Karanga Miti,’ the Swahili term for macadamia nuts.

More than 60 years down the line, these nuts are being seen as the future green economy for Tanzania, with the initiatives starting at the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI), in Tengeru, Arusha.

Aloyce Kalisti Kundyi is a researcher at TARI Tengeru, specializing on fruit trees and he revealed here that ever since they left Australian shores over 60 years ago, the so-called Karanga Mti or Karanga Pori are still not widely farmed.

“In Africa, outside Tanzania, macadamia nuts are only grown in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa, with the latter leading in production,” said Dr Kundyi, adding that farmers here are still unaware of its potential thus more research and studies are needed to promote farming.

So far there are potential for the trees to flourish in various parts of the country including Songea (Ruvuma), Kilimanjaro, Iringa, Njombe, Tanga, Kigoma, Kagera and Arusha.

The acting manager at TARI Tengeru, Agatha Aloyce pointed out that, macadamia were first planted at Sakari area of Lushoto and though the start is still slow, but the future prospects of macadamia look promising and in fact the nuts can even become Tanzania’s most profitable agricultural exports.

Another TARI scientist, Ndeshi Munisi said other than oil production, the nuts are raw materials for various cosmetics products and may also be the best medium for baking; “The trees seems to share DNA with other crops such as tea and coffee which means all areas that coffee and tea grow, macadamia will also flourish.

She said the trees can grow along with other crops such as maize and legumes which means local growers can have the best of both worlds. The nuts prefer altitudes of between 500 to 1800 meters above sea level.

Macadamia nuts are tree nuts that have a subtle, butter-like flavor and creamy texture.

Native to Australia, macadamia trees are now grown in various places around the world, but mostly in Brazil, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and New Zealand. As of late Tanzania also plans to join the fold as a future exporter of the nuts.

Like most other nuts, macadamia nuts are rich in nutrients and beneficial plant compounds but also linked to several added health benefits, including improved digestion, heart health, weight management, and blood sugar control.

Tanzania is now researching on the country’s potential to grow, produce and export Macadamia Nuts overseas and already the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) Centre of Tengeru, in Arusha is working on the preparation task.

According to scientists at TARI Center of Tengeru, the macadamia nuts are among the potential and drought and disease resistant crops that can compete with cashew nuts when it comes to profitable agricultural exports.

“And what we are actually doing here at the moment is researching for solution focused seed and seedling productions, that yield better profits to both farmers and country as whole,” stated Acting Manager at TARI Tengeru, Agatha Aloyce.

She added that the institute at Tengeru has a trial academia nuts farm recording bumper produce, therefore Arusha and other rain-fed regions can become good producers of such nuts.

On her part, the TARI Coordinator of Research, Alice Kavishe stated that macadamia Nuts command high prices in international markets, especially in Europe and USA where one kilogram of processed nuts reportedly cost US $54 equivalent to 125,000/-.

“Grade One nuts will shell US$ 54 per kilogram, compared to cashew nuts that cost US$ 24,” said Alice Kavishe adding that macadamia also have comparatively health advantages on that oils produced from the nuts are 100 percent cholesterol free.

However, macadamia nuts remain on the expensive side because of their limited supply. As it happens, macadamia grow on trees, which means there is long duration between planting to harvest times.

Also, farmers need to dedicate plenty of time, energy and resources tendering to these trees before realizing a return on their investment. But once ready, growers can be smiling all the way to the bank, for many years.

Macadamia nuts take up to three years from initial planting to final harvest ready for export and it was advised that even the local youth who currently seem to prefer the relatively cleaner horticultural type of farming may find the nuts profitable as well.

Locally one liter of edible oil derived from macadamia nuts demands over 12,000/- in cash.

So valuable are the nuts such that in 2012 Kenya authorities complained of illegal ferrying of macadamia from the country, claiming that the nuts were being smuggled into Tanzania for packaging and rebranding for export.

 “We want to start supplying seedlings to local farmers but we are constrained with inadequate land to grow enough seedlings to suffice demands,” stated Kavishe.

Experts at TARI-Tengeru say at the moment their institution was working to ensure that Tanzania becomes self-sufficient in edible oil production, through sustainable agriculture to which Macadamia nuts can heavily contribute.

Tanzania on the other hand can be another potential market; the country is annually forced to shell out large amounts of foreign currency to import edible oils and sugar. In this respect the ingress of edible oils from overseas cost the country over US $ 443,000 equivalent to 1.2 billion/- per year.