Vanilla earnings rise due to  drops from major exporter  

Vanilla exports have registered a significant increase, signaling a return of one Uganda’s biggest foreign exchange into the export market. 

Bank of Uganda indicates that during the period ended December 2022, vanilla exports surged to 95.6 million kilogrammes compared to 24 million kilogrammes exported during the same time in 2021.

The surge retuned Shs41.49b, which indicate a massive growth from just Shs13.18b earned in the same period in 2021. 

The increase is expected to impact the economy, even as there are still exists challenges that must be addressed.  

Industry experts, have however, attributed the surge to a recent government policy in Madagascar, the world’s largest exporter of vanilla, which requires the sale of green vanilla at no less than $200, compared to $50 in Uganda. 

Mr Kato Pito, the Kilembe Vanilla Exporters chief executive officer, said the shift could have scared investors, who are now seeking alternative sources of vanilla including from Uganda. 

Bank of Uganda indicate the 2022 exports surpassed the Shs16b average earning from vanilla exports in the last 10 years. 

The increased demand, Mr Pito noted, could also have been a result of a recent cyclone in Madagascar, which damaged the country’s vanilla sector. 

In the early 90s, Uganda’s vanilla experienced a massive boom after a storm had ravaged production in Madagascar. However, the country  soon experienced a massive slump, which forced a number of farmers and traders to abandon the crop. 

Uganda largely exports vanilla extract, which is lower in quality and value to vanilla gourmet. 

The low quality is attributed to premature harvest and poor post-harvest handling. 

Agriculture State Minister Fred Kyakulaga Bwino, said premature harvest, which is sometimes due to concerns of theft, significantly compromises quality, falling below the desirable 1.6 percent.

Vanilla is a strategic commodity promoted by government under the National Development Plan III. The crop is currently grown in more than 32 districts with a high concentration in western, central, and eastern Uganda. 

Uganda is the third largest exporter of vanilla in Africa, behind Madagascar and Reunion Island, and seventh globally. 

The Ministry of Agriculture projects vanilla exports to grow by 5.17 percent on an annual basis from the current 1.7 percent, driven by a rise in demand for natural vanillin flavours. 

Vanilla is used in a wide range of products, including food, cosmetics and fragrances.

Mr Kyakulaga said for Uganda to maintain the current export momentum, quality must be guaranteed through stakeholder engagements and provision of necessary infrastructure, research, and training by government.

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