KASESE – Minister for Agriculture Christopher Kibanzanga on Wednesday, June 26, met vanilla farmers and other value chain players in Rwenzori sub-region to emphasize the guidelines for appropriate planting and harvesting of the crop.
The engagements and field tours involved partners including Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which, according to Mr. Niek De Goeij, the Country Representative, is supporting farming communities to improve their livelihoods and enabling farmers to meet with the right stakeholders including exporters and buyers of vanilla in such engagements.
Mr Kibanzanga told the farmers that of the main issues being addressed by government through the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries is a trend where middlemen buy vanilla that is not yet ripe and sell it elsewhere in a state of lower quality and force buyers to push for lower prices.
He added that Government is supporting the growth of Vanilla-growing Cooperatives and groups and increasing mobility of Agricultural Extension Workers to support Vanilla growing.
Prices for vanilla have been rising over the last few years due to increased demand against very low supply of quality beans.
In Uganda, prices reached as high as UGX 250,000 per kilogram in July 2018 for green vanilla beans at the farm-gate. It is not surprising to hear that vanilla is now referred to as the “Green Gold”.
This is because of the price fetched from cured vanilla which is higher than the value of one kilogram of silver.
Regrettably, however, Mr Kibanzanga said they have observed that each time vanilla prices rise, they receive cases of theft, loss of lives, wide spread premature vanilla harvesting which ultimately compromises the quality of the Ugandan vanilla.
“Worse of all, the vanilla farmer is the most affected party. It is therefore our duty as Government to work with all vanilla actors to find lasting solutions to these challenges,” he said.
As a country, we have a window of opportunity to secure a growing long-term profitable vanilla sector, he added. Vanilla has proved to be a sustainable and profitable crop for farmers in Uganda that has potential to deliver the country into the medium income status.
Despite this immense potential, however, the international market for natural vanilla is currently threatened by the poor quality vanilla we put on the market which arises from extensive harvesting and processing of immature vanilla.
Vanilla is one of the high value crops grown in 25 districts of Uganda, mainly in Central, Eastern and Western parts of the country and is used to add flavor to drinks, dairy products, sweet food, cosmetic products and may also be applied in pharmaceutical industries.
The Dairy sector is the largest consumer of vanilla and here, it is used in ice cream, yoghurt, chocolate and other flavored dairy products.
Global consumption of vanilla ranges between 2,100MT to 2,400 MT per year over the last 10 years.
However, there is now increasing demand for all-natural and organic vanilla from major Global food companies.
In 2015 for instance, Nestle announced a major plan to go all-natural for all their products and eliminate artificial additives. This offers a major opportunity for Uganda which has the most conducive climate to increase the production of premium quality natural and organic vanilla.
In 2018, Uganda produced about 300,000Kg of Vanilla and exported 23,000Kg of cured vanilla worth USD 6.40 million.
In 2017 and 2018, the major importing countries for Ugandan vanilla included USA, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Israel, South Africa, Turkey and Hungary. Madagascar is the largest producer (1500 to 1800 MT per year) while Uganda only accounts for about 5% of the Global Production.