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Home Agribusiness Vanilla Farmers Eye Higher Earnings

Vanilla Farmers Eye Higher Earnings

by Wangah Wanyama
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By Ali Twaha

Vanex, an association of vanilla exporters has launched a marketing strategy that’s seeks to increase the country’s annual earnings in the cash crop to about $52m (about sh197b).

Speaking during the strategy’s launch at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala on February 21, Prossy Tumushabe, executive director at Vanex, said that vanilla exports as at end of 2022 were estimated at about 250 metric tons (MT).

“On the job we have started, this is the easiest step of launching the marketing strategy. However, when we send our brand out there, it’s like we have exposed ourselves. We are saying we are here; come for Uganda’s vanilla. We must work backward to maintain the volumes. It should be seen to grow because our strategic ambition is to double the production to 500,000 MT,” she said.

“With the current 250 MT and vanilla being a high-value crop, the forex earnings are about $26m, and this is set to double because our target is to double volumes. It will be about $52m by 2027. I want to appeal to vanilla farmers not to lose hope by cutting down their trees. Just like any other crop, there is always a turn in the price, and this happens every ten years; we have done the projections.”

The marketing strategy for Uganda’s vanilla aims to drive demand for quality vanilla such that competition among flavor houses and food or beverage companies will push the price up to what the technical quality of Ugandan beans deserves.

The strategy includes implementation of several pillars under the plan such as professionalising the supply chain, lower transaction costs for buyers, reduce actual and perceived risk of buying Ugandan, reduce the cost of doing business among others.

“We must be consistent with the volumes and the quality that we have. As Vanex, our biggest job is to look out for the needs of the buyers because market requirements are dynamic. What the market wants today is not what they will need next year. As Vanex, we will have to keep you aware of the market requirements,” Tumushabe said.

Uganda is the fourth-biggest vanilla exporter behind Madagascar. Uganda’s vanilla, mostly exported for beverage and pharmaceutical production, accounts for 5% of global production and is in demand due to its high vanillin content. 

Vanilla is the most lucrative crop, fetching nearly $12 per kilogram in the last December 2022 season, according to Catholic Relief Services, a key partner in developing the strategy.

However, having vanilla mature until it can fetch the highest premium price has been a daunting task for farmers as thieves steal the crop shortly before it is harvested.

Fred Bwino, minister of state for agriculture, said: “I want to assure the vanilla farmers that they should not cut their vanilla. Whatever is happening about the price is a temporary situation. Don’t put yourselves in a situation where you will regret when the price of a kilogram goes up to $100 (sh380,000).”

Seth Petchers, senior program director at Sustainable Vanilla Initiative, said: “The strategy was developed in consultation with the buyers. Several buyers, both the importers and flavor firms, as well as the food manufacturers, were interviewed to understand what their needs were. That’s what gave rise to the strategy. We made a strategic decision to target a business to business consumer, and the value proposition is to meet the needs that they have.”

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