The changing fortunes of vanilla farmers

Vanilla garden. File Photo

What you need to know:

The vanilla story in Uganda. A number of Ugandans had in the early 2000s hinged their livelihoods on the growth of vanilla with the crop’s price shooting to about Shs100,000 for every kilogramme.

With the price of vanilla moving northwards, there is a positive shift in farmers’ fortunes. Market dynamics indicate that a kilogramme of vanilla beans is selling for between Shs10,000 and Shs11,000 down from Shs7,000 and Shs9,000.

This comes at the time when speculators are also predicting a spike in the commodity’s price in both Uganda and on the international market.

The increase in prices is premised on the factors affecting Madagascar, which have only allowed the world’s leading producer of the crop to post a decent-sized yield for 2012.

According to the Public Ledger, an agricultural data magazine from Madagascar, a United Kingdom (UK) trader said her supplier of the pods had indicated a 25 per cent price increase that would take immediate effect.

Data indicates that production of the commodity in Uganda has been experiencing some swings with a severe drop in the value of the commodity.

“There is a general decline in vanilla production judging from what we get from the areas which were predictable like Mukono, Bugerere and Kayunga,” Mr Aga Sekalala Snr the Uvan managing director, said.
Mr Richard Magoola, of Esco - another vanilla exporting company said: “The central region which used to grow more vanilla is gradually reducing. However we are seeing places like Kasese coming on board.”

Between 2003 and 2004 the price of vanilla spiked to Shs100, 000 for every kilogramme of green bean pushing a number of people to plant the crop.

The spike had been ignited by a drop in production by vanilla farmers in Madagascar, whose yields had been affected by a severe storm.
With Madagascar back on its production capacity in about 2008, prices in Uganda fell drastically to sell for only Shs2,000.
Most of Uganda’s black gourmet vanilla is exported to Europe with the extract grades sold to the Americas especially USA.
In the mid-90s, vanilla had become the leading source of income for people in the areas of Mukono, Mpigi, Luwero Bundibugyo and Kasese.

About 11 companies in Uganda including Uvan, Esco, Tropical Trade International, Shepards’ Monarch Agromat, World Botanical Extracts, Gourmet Gardens, Peace Kawomera and Tambiisa Uganda among others are involved in vanilla trade.