Samuel Kadungure Senior Farming Reporter
THE macadamia sector — which all along has been grappling with twinned evils of nuts theft and exploitative marketing regime ― has scored major breakthrough following the promulgation of a law that governs the industry and addresses these vices.
Macadamia nuts — though tricky to grow — have become a major lifeline for over 400 farmers in Chipinge, who account for about 8000 hectares, with capacity to produce 30 000 tonnes annually.
The raw nuts cost US$3 per kilogramme compared to $12 in South Africa.
Apart from the mismanagement of inherited plantations and ignorance which saw some farmers destroying macadamia orchards thinking that they would be expensive to manage, the sector has seen rampant theft of nuts by daring and armed criminals and an exploitative marketing regime that put growers in a “quality nuts and poor price” dilemma.
Macadamia growers have been experiencing daring thefts.
Criminals would pounce on the plantations in broad daylight, armed with machetes, knives and logs, forcing the growers to hit back.
Several macadamia thieves have been killed, and some injured, as a result. The criminals took advantage of a porous and unregulated marketing regime, in which buyers would flood the area scouting for the on-demand nuts from anyone.
Police moved in to beef up security, but many macadamia nuts orchards remained under threat because the nuts are on demand from buyers.
The situation was compounded by the fact that in cases where farmers failed to pay their workers on time, the farm workers would hit back by stealing and selling the nuts through other registered farmers.
It was a free-for-all.
There was no law to control and regulate the marketing of the lucrative nuts as well as institute effective systems to control theft of the nuts.
After yes of lobbying, the Macadamia Producers Association of Zimbabwe (MPAZ) finally heaved a sigh of relief following the gazetting of Statutory Instrument 138 of 2019, Agricultural Marketing Authority (Macadamia Nuts) Regulations last month.
MPAZ secretary general Mr James Maisiri said the new law has effectively plugged loopholes that have been troubling macadamia growers.
“We have been waiting for this law to ensure sanity prevails in the macadamia sector. Government finally came to our rescue, and we are happy,” said Mr Maisiri.
SI 138 of 2019, among other things, seeks to control and regulate the marketing of macadamia nuts; promote, protect and maintain the sale of macadamia nuts; institute effective systems to control theft of macadamia nuts; to collate statistics relating to the production, marketing, export and consumption or use of macadamia nuts and distribute market studies and information relating to the marketing, production and use of macadamia nuts.
All macadamia growers, processors or buyers must now be registered.
“Every person who is, or intends to become a commercial grower, buyer or processor of macadamia nuts shall register . . . either individually, or through associations of stakeholders who shall be representing the interests of growers, processors or buyers.
“No person shall deal in macadamia nuts for commercial purposes unless he or she is — (a) licensed as a buyer of macadamia nuts; or (b) registered as a grower; or (c) the holder of a permit issued in terms of section 10. No licensed buyer whose licence has been suspended and no person registered as an authorised buyer on behalf of such a licensed buyer shall buy macadamia nuts whilst the license is suspended.
“A licensed buyer may only— (a) possess macadamia nuts received by him or her as a result of his or her lawful trading; or (b) deal in macadamia nuts in his or her possession only to the extent to which he or she is licensed in terms of these regulations or any other enactment relating to dealing in macadamia nuts; or (c) export macadamia nuts referred to in paragraph (a) subject to these regulations or any other enactment relating to the export of macadamia nuts,” reads part of the law.
“A holder of any permit or license from the Authority may only— (a) possess macadamia nuts in accordance with the terms of his or her permit or license; or (b) deal in macadamia nuts with any other lawfully authorised person to the extent to which he or she and such other person are permitted in terms of these regulations, the terms of his or her permit or license or any other enactment relating to dealing in macadamia nuts”.
The Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) and producer associations are compelled to keep an annual register of all growers, processors or buyers and those registered are not allowed to transfer their registration numbers to any other person.
“Any person who unlawfully transfers to any other person his or her registration number shall have such registration number invalidated by the Authority. A person who uses or transacts under an invalidated registration number shall be guilty of an offence and be liable to a fine not exceeding level 4 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” reads part of the law.
Mr Maisiri said the level 4 sentence was a good starting point.
“The major challenge has been theft of the nuts. The judiciary had no basis to impose deterrent sentence, and in the end the criminals ended up getting lighter sentences and return to steal again. The new law imposes both fine and imprisonment of up to three months. Though it is a bit lenient, we can always push for an upward review of the sentence.
We also had a challenge of buyers, and their conduct is now regulated by SI 138 of 2019.