Vanilla is harvested twice a year due to the two annual dry seasons. The Ugandan vanilla is a superior quality product and it is naturally produced.
The vanilla flowering and pollination for the major season is between September and October with the harvesting occurring in June and July the following year. In the early and mid 1990s, vanilla made history in Uganda when it became the most expensive cash-crop in the country ever. At the time, a kilogram of vanilla rose to as much as sh150,000 and soon, it was referred to as ‘black gold’. S
ome farmers thought that the price would permanently remain high, however, the international price rise was largely due to poor harvest by regular vanilla growing countries like Madagascar.
By the end of the 90s, the price had dropped to as low as sh3,000 a kilogramme, making farmers incur losses. “Many of the farmers cursed the day they had ever ventured into this enterprise,” said Aga Ssekalala.
Gradually, however, UVAN started promoting the growing of the crop again. At the moment, a kilogram costs between sh5,000 and sh10,000.
Vanilla grows best under hot humid climate from sea level to an elevation of 1500m.
Most of its production is done 10 to 20 degrees above and below the equator. The ideal growing conditions are moderate rainfall, 150–300cm, evenly distributed through 10 months of the year. The optimum temperatures for cultivation are 15–30 °C (59–86 °F) during the day and 15–20 °C (59–68 °F) during the night.
Soils for vanilla cultivation should be loose with high organic matter content and loamy texture. They must be well-drained, and a slight slope helps in this condition.
Mulch is very important for proper growth of the vine, and a considerable portion of mulch should be placed in the base of the vine.