Macadamia nuts are indigenous to Australia. They first came to Hawaii in the early 1880’s brought in by William H Purvis, a young manager of the Pacific Sugar Mill at Kukuihaele on the Big Island, who planted the seeds at Kapulena on the Hamakua coast.
By the 1920’s macnut trees were being planted intensively as a commercial crop in Hawaii. In 1922 Erst Van Tassel formed the Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Co. In 1931 he set up a macnut processing factory in Honolulu. Throughout the 1940’s and 50’s more macnut farms were established both in Hawaii and Australia as the nut became more popular.
Hawaii was the world’s biggest producer of macnuts up until the 1990’s when it was surpassed by Australia. Hawaii and Australia still provide nearly half of all the macadamia nuts commercially produced.
The other half come from the combined production of South Africa, Brazil, California, Costa Rica, Israel, Kenya, Bolivia, New Zealand, Columbia, Guatemala and Malawi.
Macadamia was introduced in Kenya in 1942 from Australia. In 1960 the Government had an elaborate program of promoting macadamia from seeds that were planted and nurseries set up. These seed nuts were brought as shade crop for coffee to perform better in reduced temperature. In 1966 a lot of nuts had been planted in Central- Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Muranga, Eastern- Meru and Embu, Kakamega- Bukula and Bungoma – ADC.
Kiambu, Meru, Embu, Murang’a and Kirinyaga — highland regions that surround Mt. Kenya, the source of the volcanic soil are the biggest producers of macadamia in the country
Macadamia tree is permanent unless affected by a disease like powdery mildew at flowering stage. Production starts at three and a half years for grafted varieties and seven years for local varieties. The main varieties planted in Embu region are Murang’a 20 which has good performance. It has a tendency of producing a few nuts year through after the main season and is the best yielding variety. the macadamia nut trees should be planted at a spacing of 7.5m by 7.5m.
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