Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Frank Tumwebaze announced July 1 as the date for harvesting vanilla for the first season of 2021.
Vanilla is a high-value horticulture crop grown and used as a flavoring agent in beverages, confectionaries, and pharmaceuticals.
It is currently grown in about 28 districts in the central, western, and eastern regions of the country.
The minister says despite its price depreciating globally, vanilla still fetches the highest price per kilogram among crops exported by Uganda.
He also noted those involved in the vanilla value chain face a number of challenges that are being addressed through public-private sector partnerships.
“Due to its high price, there are several malpractices along the vanilla value chain. These include theft, thuggery, robbery, murders, immature harvesting, handling, and processing, which compromise the overall quality of the final vanilla product that is put on the market. Poor quality of vanilla ultimately affects the prices that are offered for Uganda’s vanilla by international buyers. Consequently, the actors including farmers earn less,” Minister Tumwebaze said.
“Government, through MAAIF has partnered with the promoters of vanilla like Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the vanilla exporters association of Uganda (VANEX), UVAN and farmers to identify and popularize strategies that reduce the malpractices along the vanilla value chain to improve the quality and profitability of Uganda’s vanilla.”
Declaration of harvest date is one of the global best practices adopted by MAAIF to fight the vices in the vanilla industry.
The vanilla harvesting process takes about a month, but a harvest date declared by Government marks the beginning of the harvesting period.
The minister advised farmers to harvest only fully mature and ripe vanilla.
Traders and processors have also been urged to buy only mature vanilla and ensure professional handling and processing of vanilla to attain the highest possible vanillin content.
“If we can work together to address the practices that reduce the quality of vanilla, we will be in a stronger position to protect our farmers from the price fluctuations on the worldwide vanilla market and Uganda will become a number one supplier of the high-quality vanilla in the world,” he said.
Vanilla is harvested twice a year, that is, June or July and December or January.
Uganda has some of the best vanilla in the world and it mostly sells to Europe and the US.
According to Alex Lwakuba, the commissioner of Crop Production at the Ministry, in 2019, Uganda exported 30 tons of vanilla and earned $4.74 million.
The commissioner says the country has the potential to produce over 400 tons of vanilla.