In an effort to maintain high quality of the vanilla spice on the international market, the Government of Uganda introduced periods for harvesting of the crop.
In the same vein, the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries has set January 11, 2021 as the start date for harvesting of vanilla.
The dates were announced by the Minister for Agriculture Vicent Bamulangaki Ssempija while addressing the press at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala.
“I hereby declare that the appropriate vanilla harvest date for the second season of the year 2020 shall be the 11th of January 2021 onwards. Farmers should remember to only pick ripe vanilla beans. The Government of Uganda will take strong punitive action against anyone found harvesting, or in possession of vanilla beans before the stipulated date,” Ssempija said.
For the past two years, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has declared vanilla harvest dates in a bid to improve the quality of the crop and promote Uganda’s global position as the leading source of high quality vanilla.
Ssempija said declaring and respecting vanilla harvest dates is crucial as the reason is that for vanilla to achieve the flavor preferred by buyers on the international market, it must be harvested only when it is mature.
He said, In difficult economic times being experienced globally, due to COVID 19 pandemic and as supply meets or even exceeds demand, it is expected that international buyers will place more stringent quality requirements on suppliers. Therefore, if premature selling and buying of vanilla continues, there is a possibility of international buyers turning their backs on Ugandan vanilla.
He said declaration of Harvest dates by Government has paid dividends. So far, the quality and the overall image of Uganda’s vanilla industry has, reportedly improved.
“This is evidenced by positive testimonies from the Global Vanilla Buying Community, organized under the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative,” he added.
Ssempija added, “Vanilla has proved to be a sustainable and profitable crop for farmers. Vanilla is the single crop in Uganda with the highest price per kilogram. For instance, prices reached as high as Uganda Shillings 250,000= in July 2018 for green vanilla beans at the farm-gate. Although currently vanilla prices are low due to the international market challenges, Vanilla is still a very good crop for our farmers. Today, vanilla is selling at a much higher price than any other commercial crop grown in Uganda and we expect prices to rise again in 2021”.
He said Despite the importance and huge potential vanilla can get farmers, processors and buyers out of poverty, its value chain is still experiencing several challenges which threaten the survival of the industry. The key challenge is maintaining the Vanilla Quality required at the International market.
Vanilla Quality is compromised by Immature Vanilla Harvesting, Poor handling, Processing and Storage. Low Vanilla quality is resented by International Vanilla Buyers.
This affects all the stakeholders along the entire value chain: the Farmers, Processors, Exporters and Uganda as a Country. Profits decline and as a country, our vanilla becomes less competitive in the market.
Poor quality vanilla is largely orchestrated by theft and undercover processing activities such as roasting, burying underground and informal trade.
Ssempija said as a country, we have a great opportunity to harness a growing long-term profitable vanilla industry. Vanilla has proved to be a sustainable and profitable crop for farmers in Uganda with potential to deliver the participating farmers and actors into the medium income status cherished by the NRM Government.
He said Government is collaborating with partners like Catholic Relief Services, Private sector organizations like VANEX, vanilla farmers and processors promoting the development of vanilla value chain in Uganda, to address the vanilla challenges in the country.
Local Governments where vanilla is grown have also risen up to tackle the vices. He said government has adopted best practices from other vanilla producing countries that experience similar challenges.
He said: “We have started receiving encouraging reports from International buyers regarding the quality of vanilla that we export. We need to scale out such achievements until Uganda emerges as number one source for the best vanilla in the world”.
Protecting the quality of Uganda vanilla is critical for Uganda. I wish to emphasize that the theft and early selling of immature vanilla is harmful to the reputation of Ugandan vanilla on the global market and it leads to lower income for farmers.
The Minister advised farmers to harvest their vanilla when fully mature and ripe. Simultaneously, traders and processors must ensure professional handling and processing of vanilla to attain the highest possible vanillin content.
“If we can work together to address 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.
Ssempija directed the Agriculture Ministry staff to be vigilant on the harvesting date issue, especially the Agricultural Police, in collaboration with the Private Sector who are called upon to popularize these harvest dates, to hunt down and expose all culprits who do not respect them.