Kenya’s sales of macadamia nuts to the United States have soared in recent years, while textile exports have stagnated, according to new data on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
The US imported $52 million (Sh5.2 billion) worth of macadamia nuts from Kenya last year, compared to $72,000 (in purchases of the same product in 2000, the US trade agency reported last week.
The agency’s Agoa assessment describes the boom in Kenya’s macadamia sector as one of the “success stories” of the 18-year-old US preferential trade programme that covers most products from sub-Saharan Africa.
Macadamia exports help support over 100,000 Kenyan smallholders who, the US trade agency says, can “add thousands of dollars” to their incomes through sales of the nuts under Agoa. Although Kenya ranks as one of the leading African exporters of textiles and clothing to the US, sales have stagnated.
Kenya exported about $340 million in textiles and apparel to the US last year — slightly less than the sum for 2016, according to the South Africa-based Trade Law Centre, which tracks Agoa trends.
The US trade agency puts a positive spin on the performance of Kenya’s textile-export sector. It had been viewed by Agoa’s architects as a potential growth engine similar to the role played by textile exports in powering the take-off of many East Asian economies.
“UAL Apparel Factory is a leading [Kenyan] exporter that supplies many large retail chains, including Levi Strauss and H&M,” the US trade agency report states. “Since the extension of Agoa in 2015, UAL has added thousands of jobs, and currently employs nearly 10,000 Kenyans. Overall, 40,000 Kenyans are employed in the apparel export industry.”