By Nelson Mandela Muhoozi and Aloysious Kasoma
Although vanilla prices have recently been discouraging, Godfrey Kigoye, a vanilla farmer based in Kyotera district says there are signs of an expected boom.
Kigoye grows vanilla on three and half acres and says that opportunities for vanilla growers lie in value addition.
“This time round some farmers are mobilizing themselves and learning value addition with the help of experts and the government to prepare for opportunities in the value chain,” he added.
“We learned a lot from Covid-19 challenges on the sector. We learned about value addition and now we know how to keep our product clean in order to attract better value from the market,” said Kigoye.
He added, “We have tried to create groups like Organic Farmers Association and collaborations with export firms like Timex Uganda such that we can add value to our vanilla.”
Since 2016, Uganda has recorded a rapid increase in vanilla exports ranging from 0.65 to 75.4 tons every year from the estimated number of 50,000 farmers who have since grown vanilla from around 2,000 in 2015, especially the youths.
The plant is such a highly prized commodity and its prices have been soaring in the last couple of years.
According to Kigoye, the lowest a kilogram of vanilla went in 2021 was sh120,000 (for dry vanilla). For fresh vanilla, he says prices ranged between sh30,000 to sh50,000.
However, Kigoye expects that prices will even be better in the near future.
“Let’s not to lose hope, vanilla is counted among the top cash crop for Uganda and a production per acre is more productive than that of coffee,” he said.
The main sources of Uganda vanilla include Mukono, Jinja, Kamuli, Luweero, Kasese, Mpigi, Kayunga and Bundibugyo districts.
According to Pimbasa Tamale Junior, an exporter of Vanilla, Uganda has a competitive advantage over any other African country apart from Madagascar.
Madagascar is the leading exporter in the world with an annual production of 1,600 tons. Although Tamale is worried that the consumption levels are still very low globally, what comforts him is that the demand is available.
Tamale advises that if farmers can improve on the quality of vanilla, learn value addition, Uganda can take over Madagascar.
“Uganda has the capacity to lead in the world because we have the best product. However, the quality is still very poor because the sector lacks enough technocrats for this particular product,” he said.