Tough times ahead as Ugandan vanilla farmers brace for low prices

Posted: 2020-06-04T09:20:20Z Read: 1,204 times
Tough times ahead as Ugandan vanilla farmers brace for low prices

Ugandan Vanilla farmers will face a fall in prices after a clear downward trend in global prices as a result of increasing supply from Madagascar and other vanilla producing 3 countries was registered. 

In the past 3 years, vanilla prices have been extremely high due to a shortage in global supply triggered by a devastating cyclone which affected gardens in Madagascar - the world’s largest producer.

However, now that Madagascar is back to normal and production is higher, Ugandan farmers and exporters may receive much lower prices for their vanilla in the coming seasons. 
According to the World Bank Commodity Markets Outlook of April, 2020, the ensuing economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic may further translate into considerably lower commodity prices in 2020.

The minister of state for Agriculture, Hon Aggrey Bagiire says that in a market situation where supply meets or even exceeds demand, buyers and consumers generally demand high quality products. 

“To harness the best opportunities of such a global vanilla market situation, we in Uganda, must of necessity, identify and emphasize strategies that guarantee high quality of vanilla that we put on the market in order to ensure a sustainable and better price for farmers. For this to succeed however, effective collaborative efforts of both the public and private sector actors are required. Farmers must harvest their vanilla when it is fully mature, that is; 9 months after pollination” the minister says.

He adds that Traders and processors need to adhere to the professional vanilla handling and processing standards to attain the highest possible vanillin content that the market requires. Government on the other hand should provide an appropriate regulatory environment to ensure compliance with standards and buyers’ requirements.

On the 21st of May and the 14th of November 2019, the Ministry of agriculture made national declarations of Vanilla Harvest Dates with the aim of reducing premature harvests, curbing theft, improving the handling and processing practices to ensure that high quality vanilla is exported out of Uganda. 

“Commendably, we have heard and observed a positive impact on the image of Uganda’s vanilla industry, particularly the quality of vanilla that goes to the market. Similarly, less cases of theft and premature harvests have been reported by our Agriculture Police Unit. I would like to appeal to you not to be complacent and retrogress into the situation that will 4 again compromise the quality of Uganda’s vanilla. We seriously need to consolidate these gains and ensure that Uganda is the world center of excellence in producing quality vanilla” Hon. Bagiire noted.

He says that it is disheartening to hear that in spite of the positive testimonies Uganda is getting from the market, the country has started getting reports of premature harvests, mostly fueled by dodgy middlemen. 

The minister particularly noted that on May 13, 2020, security officers intercepted a truck of poor-quality, cured vanilla in Mukono District, which had just arrived from Kasese. 

“According to our experts, the color of this vanilla indicated that it was picked prematurely, about 3 or 4 months after pollination. A sample of that vanilla was taken to Chemiphar laboratories for analysis. We were shocked to learn that the vanillin content was only 0.2%, the lowest ever! If such vanilla is exported, no matter where it goes, it will paint a bad image about Uganda. This is unacceptable and must stop with immediate effect” he added.