Lamu,KENYA:Cashew nut farmers in Lamu county are appealing to the national government to lift a nine year old export ban which they say has killed the trade.
The ban was introduced back in 2009 by then Agriculture Minister William Ruto with the sole aim to solidifying local cashew nut markets and reviving local industries.
Cashewnut farmers however feel the ban was a raw deal and continue to question why its still in place even after it had badly damaged the farming of the crop in the county.
The export ban forbids cashew nut farmers in Lamu from exporting and selling their crop to markets outside Kenya
Speaking in Lamu town when they congregated to chart a way forward on the matter on Friday,the cashew nut farmers from Mpeketoni,Witu and Faza which are the major cashew nut growing zones in the county said the ban had done the cashew nut industry more harm and no single good.
“The ban has caused us untold misery.For many of us that was our livelihood and as such we had really invested.The ban came at a time many of us had just harvested hugely and were making plans to send out our produce to outside markets like we usually did since it fetched us good profits.We have been stuck ever since,”said Majale Daeri,a farmer from Faza.
They want it lifted immediately to enable them try to revive again.
Due to the existence of the ban,only the National Cereals and Produce board-NCPB has the authority to purchase the cashew nuts from farmers.
They said having incurred huge losses,many have quit cashew nut farming and embarked on alternative ventures for lack of a ready market for their produce.
“Every farmer wants to know there is a ready market for his crops even as he begins growing them.However with cashew nuts here in Lamu,local markets aren’t there and the outside markets are blocked due to the export ban.Meaning even if we wanted to,we don’t have anywhere to sell the nuts so we don’t even grow them anymore.But we are positive that if they lif the ban,we will shine again,”said Mwaniki Thuo,a cashew nut farmer from Mpeketoni.
The farmers say the ban has extensively damaged the sector and that even if lifted,the effects will take years to undo.
“When the ban was introduced,many farmers who had stocked up their stores with cashew nuts encountered huge losses since they were unable to sell and as a result tones of kilos of cashew nuts were destroyed killing the morale of many,”said Abdalla Shegai,a farmer from Witu.
They called on the government to lift the ban in order to enable for the resuscitation cashew nut farming which they said would change fortunes for many if done in a timely manner.
Many of the farrmers also confessed to having uprooted cashew nut trees from their farms since they saw no hope of the industry doing well again and that there was no value in cashew nut farming as long as the ban was still in place.
Lamu county has over 10,000 cashew nut majority of whom have quit and embarked on various other ventures due to the ban.
Some of the farmers disclosed that they had been able to preserve tones of cashew nuts albeit using expensive preservatives and are hopeful of selling them at good prices if and when the export ban is lifted.
They have also called on the county government to set up a cashew nut factory in the county.