UGANDA – The Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture has asked vanilla farmers not to destroy their produce or the entire plant because of declining profit margins.
Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, State Minister for Agriculture, said: “The government is asking farmers to be patient. Because it has a unique characteristic, we advise those that already have it not to destroy it because you will destroy it today, and tomorrow the demand will again go up, and the price will again go up, so please be patient.”
Vanilla is a spice derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily obtained from pods of the species, flat-leaved vanilla.
The spice is the second most expensive in the category globally, used to flavor foods, beverages, and medicinal syrups. It is also used as a fragrance in perfumes.
Local Ugandan exporters have raised concerns over the reduced consistency and quality, which cuts down on demand-fit Ugandan vanilla globally. Data from the Uganda Export Promotion Board show that the country exported 89,038 tons of cured vanilla worth US$8.33 million by March 2023.
According to a farmer in the country, when he ventured into vanilla agribusiness in 2018, the spice fetched US$80 per kilogram at the time, however, due to unforeseen circumstances the prices have fallen tenfold.
Vanilla farmers have found themselves in a predicament due to the volatility in the global market, with the current price for a kilogram balancing at around US$1.
To protect vanilla farmers, the government started declaring the harvesting period – a probable time that considers patterns in the different regions of the country. The official harvesting period opens on July 17; however, it is the mature first in the west.
“The date that we set is not absolute. It is either minus or plus – it is an estimate. You can’t have a single date for all growers across the country, and yet we have different agronomical regions in this country,” Kyakulaga explained.
Similarly, the Ugandan farmer noted that the harvesting period encourages theft in the farms as no asks about the produce traceability.
“Yes, someone can still be harvesting now but remember it is open time for everyone to sell, then you have more chances of having thieves to come and pick your vanilla because no one will ask them where they got it from,” he explained.
“But before that time, no one could sell vanilla. But now, if it is selling time, anyone can sell vanilla no matter where they got it from.”
In June, while speaking to journalists at the government media center, Kyakulaga said that according to the international market, Uganda is ranked second in producing quality vanilla after Madagascar, the top producer.