The industry has seen greedy people stealing farmers’ vanilla which is largely immature Dorothy Nakaweesi writes.
Vanilla value chain-players want government to speed up the formulation of a policy that will streamline the industry.
The high-value export commodity currently trades at $500 (Shs1.8 million) per kilogramme of cured/dried beans at the international market while a kilogramme of green beans at farm-gate is quoted at Shs230,000 to Shs240,000.
Although the farm-gate price is slightly lower than last year’s Shs260,000 to Shs270,000, experts in the industry say this is still far better than other commodities like coffee priced at Shs2,500.
Because of these prices, the industry has seen greedy people stealing farmers’ vanilla which is largely immature.
If this vice is not addressed, through the policy the country stands to lose out on prime prices and also ruin its brand name.
Speaking to Prosper Magazine, Mr Chariton Namuwoza, a global marketing expert currently supporting the strengthening of the vanilla industry in Uganda, said: “What is happening now especially with the high prices –exporters are receiving immature beans from the farmers. Immature vanilla beans have low vanillin content and this affects the brand of the country and individual exporters.”
He said if the policy is formulated, it will help in addressing the quality exported to the global market and this attracts a premium price.
The other aspects that stakeholders want the policy to address, is to help them in the organisation of farmers into producer groups so that they can regulate themselves right from the grassroots.
“Then, the theft aspect which has seen so many farmers lose their beans as their garden are swept clean thus depriving them of their hard-earned money,” Mr Namuwoza noted.
Mr Namuwoza added that they want to see the policy address the licensing of processors.
“There has to be a regulation to control the middlemen if the quality of vanilla is to be kept and building the capacity of the producers to comply with the market quality requirements,” he added.
Currently the industry is supplied by about 50,000 farmers down from over 200,000 farmers who used to grow vanilla a decade ago but lost hope when the price drastically fell.
Many frustrated farmers cut down the plant because they could not cope with the low prices which had reached Shs1,000 down from Shs100,000 for each kilogramme of fresh vanilla beans.
The highest is Shs260,000 depending on who is buying. This is the bigger season which kicks off in two weeks.
Current records show that Uganda’s export volumes have reached 80 metric tonnes worth $40m (Shs150b). This is up from 69 tonnes exported in 2013 worth $2.6 million when a farm-gate price for each kilogramme was quoted at Shs25,000.
In an interaction with Mr Aga Sekalala, one of the leading vanilla processors and exporters through Uvan (U) Ltd, said the demand and market for vanilla is still big but it is only for mature beans.
“We have the market but we urge vanilla farmers to harvest mature beans, rehabilitate their gardens and plant new plantlets, as this will keep them in full production all year around,” he said.
Mr Sekalala commenting about the slight drop in prices said it is still good compared to other export commodities such as coffee.