KAMPALA – The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has said that the continued theft and early sale of vanilla is harmful both to Uganda’s International reputation as a key player in the vanilla industry and to its farmers who lose significant income when their cash crop is stolen.
Vanilla is the world’s second most expensive spice after saffron and Uganda is recognised as the second most important origin for vanilla after Madagascar.
According to Hon Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, if premature buying and selling of vanilla continues, there is a chance that international buyers may turn their backs on Ugandan vanilla.
Ssempijja says that theft and early sale of vanilla in Uganda is really sad because it is an important crop in the country that faces good money for Ugandan farmers compared to other crops.
“At some point it fetched Ugx 500,000 per kilogram. We need to get a law for vanilla and if we do this, add controls and maintain quality, we can fetch 40 to 50 million dollars a year. The current export is estimated at 50 metric tonnes per year and our goal is to multiply this seven times 4 years from now,” he shares.
He add that the crop down here in Uganda has a good climatic environment and they just need to sort its harvesting since everybody knows the Ugandan vanilla is organically grown.
For vanilla to achieve the flavour preferred by buyers on the international market, it should be harvested only when it is mature. In difficult economic times like these, and as supply meets or even exceeds demand, it is expected that international buyers will place more stringent quality requirements and on suppliers.
With this in mind, the government of Uganda is increasing penalties for the theft and premature sale of vanilla and is in the process of passing tougher measures to prosecute anyone who is involved in stealing vanilla or selling it before it is mature.
“We cannot take this lightly when the quality is being compromised. MAAIF together with security systems is going to sit and see a way forward like how gardens should be safe guarded. Concerned stakeholders from the local council authorities to the judiciary will also be asked to bring these thieves and buyers to book,” he says.
“As the minister, it is me that announces that it is ripe and ready for harvest. We plan on installing roadblocks in districts that produce vanilla checking out for the thieves and buyers of the immature vanilla. Factories buying young vanilla will also face closure.”
According to Don Seville from the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI), based on historical production and vanilla quality, SVI members believe that Uganda has proven potential to serve a strong additional vanilla origin, which is essential for reducing extreme volatility in price and quality that has challenged the sector and livelihoods of vanilla farmers.
“For the last 3 years, SVI has supported and partnered with Vanex, CRS, and the Ministry of Agriculture to help the Uganda Vanilla industry by strengthening the exporters association as a voice for the Uganda vanilla sector and working with the government to put in place a regulatory environment to address the problem of early picking and protect vanilla quality,” he said.
Seville adds that with the market currently entering a correction phase, Uganda has a good window of opportunity to demonstrate a value proposition to the market that is based on consistent high quality, competitive pricing, and a clear and well managed market.
“SVI looks forward to working together with the Ugandan private sector, government and farmers to realise this opportunity to improve and grow the vanilla production and trade in Uganda.”