Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has developed a new technology to boost cashew nuts production.
KALRO Director General Eliud Kiplimo Kireger has said a massive programme has been rolled out to empower cashew nuts farmers in the Coast region to achieve their potential.
Cashew nuts farmers training
Kireger said the research body has embarked on a programme to train farmers at the grassroots level on the new technologies. He also said they will distribute the new variety of seedlings they have developed.
Speaking during an eight-day training for cashew nuts farmers from Lamu County at KALRO Mtwapa on Saturday, Kireger said farmers in the Coast currently produce 10kg of cashew nuts per tree whereas, there is potential to produce up to 70kg per tree.
The main constraints have been reliance on aged trees, poor varieties, poor agronomic management, pest and diseases, fluctuating market prices and weak farmer organizations.-KALRO DG Kireger
New cashew nuts varieties
The DG disclosed that KALRO has developed 14 cashew nut varieties. He further stated that four varieties have already been certified. They have the potential to produce 1,680kg per acre compared to current yields of 500kg per acre.
He further noted that cashew nut farming in Kenya covers about 23,000 hectares of land. The annual cashew nuts production is about 15,000 metric tons of nuts valued at Sh397.4 million.
“However, the potential production is under about 70,000 hectares of land with an annual production of 45,000 metric tons valued at about Sh1billion,” Kireger said.
Increased demand for cashew nuts
The Kalro boss said there is increased demand for cashew nuts and their products locally and internationally. He added that Kenya has a great potential to exploit this opportunity.
He said cashew farming is ranked third in the world production of edible nuts that are traded globally. Potential export markets include China, Japan, India, Netherlands, Israel, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
He said the crop thrives in well-drained sandy loam soils in tropical climates. Optimal temperatures average between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius, although the trees can also survive at 40 degrees Celsius.
According to Kalro, cashew nut grows in areas between zero and 1,000 metres above sea level. However, the ideal altitude is 600 metres above sea level. Rainfall requirements range between 600 to 1,200mm per year but can also grow in areas of low rainfall of 400mm.
KALRO has seven centres in the Coast, including in Lamu, Malindi, Mtwapa, Matuga, Kikoneni, Mariakani and Bachuma that support agriculture and livestock research.