By Prossy Nandudu
Farmers, whose vanilla has ripened, have been asked to work with district production officers to find ways of harvesting the crop.
The directive was issued by agriculture state minister Fred Kyakulga Bwiino in an interview with New Vision on Tuesday.
“The production officer will assess the garden where the crop has been planted, then guide a farmer on how to harvest, with a view of ensuring that only mature and ready crops are harvested to maintain the quality needed by the market,” Bwino said.
Bwino said that although the Government issued dates for harvesting the crop in June this year, these were not static, adding that due to variations in the weather, some regions could have the crops ready for harvest before the actual date or after the set date.
“So, the harvest days are not static, we are calling on farmers to contact the district production officer who will inspect the garden and ascertain that the crop is ready so as to clear the farmer to harvest,” he added.
According to him, the intervention is aimed at preventing losses that may come about due to delayed harvest. Delayed harvest compromises the quality of the crop that is fast gaining international demand.
His comments come amidst complaints from farmers across the country whose crops are ready, but have been waiting for the harvest dates which started on July 17, 2023, for the first season on words.
Although some parts of the country like Ibanda are now harvesting vanilla, this isn’t the same for all vanilla-growing districts in the country.
Vanilla growing districts, according to information from the agriculture ministry are in Western Uganda, districts neighbouring DRC Congo and also the central region, although eastern districts such as Busia have also embraced the crop.
According to Bwino, harvest times were set to protect farmers from low prices. Currently, there is an increase in global stocks of vanilla which may cause a decline in demand and price of vanilla in the next few harvest seasons in all vanilla-growing countries, not only Uganda.
One of the reasons is the reduced global consumer demand and global buyers stocking up in anticipation of crop failure in Madagascar, the leading producer of Vanilla in the world.
This means that until global buyers deplete their current stocks and begin buying again, they may not be able to buy as much as expected and even if they do, this might probably be at lower prices than anticipated.
Additional information from the Uganda Export Promotion Board, Uganda exported 89.038 tonnes of cured vanilla worth $8.33 million by March 2023.
Major markets for Uganda’s vanilla, include US, Indonesia, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Korea.
In 2021, the global vanilla market size was valued at $2,854.99 million and is projected to reach $ 4,701.91 million by 2030, during the forecast period between 2022–2030.
Profitability of Vanilla
Vanilla, according to the ministry, is a profitable crop despite its fluctuating prices on the international market. According to it, vanilla takes three years to first harvest from the time of establishment.
To start vanilla growing, one has to spend shillings five million to establish one acre in the first two years. From the third year, a farmer can harvest between two and three kilogrammes of beans per plant. That means from the 450 Plants in an acre, a farmer can harvest about 1,000kg in the first year.
And if sold at a price of shillings 40,000 per kilo, a farmer could earn about shillings 35 million from one acre, according to records from the agriculture ministry.
Globally, vanilla is a spice used to add flavour to food, beverages, in cosmetics and can also be used in pharmaceutical industries.