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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladeshi man creates empire of macadamia nuts in Kenya

Khan’s macadamia nut factory in Thika town is very different from others and drawing global attention

Update : 21 Jul 2020, 02:00 PM

Ten years ago, when Mohammad Khan arrived in Nairobi, the only thing he had with him were his backpack and a dream to make it big.

The road ahead was not easy for him but the then under-construction Thika Superhighway showed him the path. “I asked myself what could have led the government to construct such a highway, and I knew it must be connecting the city to somewhere interesting,” Khan recalled, reports the Daily Nation, a Kenyan daily.

During his research, he came across macadamia nuts, something that he had not heard of before and wanted to know more. There were a few factories that were processing macadamia nuts but were doing it on a small scale in Thika town when he was looking for information about the nuts.

He said he was looking for a place that would be conducive for setting up a factory, as well as easy access to the produce which led him to settle in Thika where he eventually set up a nut factory on Lodwar Street.

In his research, Khan found that consumption of macadamia nuts helps lower the level of bad cholesterol, which, in turn, can reduce a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. “I found that the nuts are very useful to diabetic patients, mainly type two,” he said.

He visited macadamia-growing counties including Embu, Meru, Nyeri, and Kirinyaga where he found raw nuts from the farms.

At some point, he sought financing from Business Partners International, a specialist risk finance company for formal small and medium owner-managed businesses, to help him buy raw materials.

Now, his macadamia nut factory in Thika town is different from others and drawing global attention. Everyone working or visiting the factory has to maintain high levels of hygiene.

Khan said this is one of his priorities to avoid any contamination or compromise of the quality of nuts and that he has been following it for over nine years.

Hygiene rules followed at the factory include having clear medical records before being allowed into the packaging rooms, not wearing any perfumes, and putting on protective gear.

Khan said he keeps a clean business reputation, especially in the export market.

Health benefits of macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts taste creamy, almost like the insides of a fresh coconut.

Studies showed that they can help in the treatment of diabetes, and play a role in preventing other serious ailments, like heart disease.

This magic nut can also lower the blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cancer.

It can also boost brain health, help with weight loss, improve gut health, and decrease the risk of diabetes.

What’s Khan doing at his factory?

Once received from the farmers, the nuts are cleaned before they are put in the cracking machine to remove the hard shell.

The machine is also used to separate the good and the bad nuts.

Khan said low quality nuts are eliminated at this point.

“The selection has to be done manually. This is done by workers just to check what might have been missed by the machine," he added.

The process also involves removing excess moisture from the nuts. The packaging is usually done in 11.3 kg packages.

Diversifying product

Khan also said that his aim is to see most people include nuts in their daily meals for the sake of good health.

“Most people have the notion that nuts are eaten as a luxury. This is because they don’t understand their health benefits,” he added.

He said that unlike macadamia nuts grown in other countries, Kenya's produce is organic and has more health benefits. The Kenyan macadamia is darker in colour compared to those from fully commercialized countries.

Besides Kenya, some of the countries that grow macadamia include Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Malawi.

The Bangladeshi entrepreneur said: “We bought a kilogram of the nuts at between Sh45 and Sh50 about a decade ago. By 2019, a kilogram was selling at Sh240.”

His main market is export and he sells 32,660 kg of packed macadamia nuts every month, Khan added.

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to many businesses, especially those that depended on a single product or service.

Following a lot of research after doing the business for nine years, his research has led him to the production of macadamia oil, macadamia milk suitable for lactose intolerant people, and cosmetic products.

Khan hopes to sell the products both locally and back home in Bangladesh.

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