BY UGANDA VANGUARD
KAMPALA – Government has announced new dates for vanilla harvest to ensure quality produce to attract better prices on the international market. According to Mr Christopher Kibanzanga, the State Minister for Agriculture, decision was reached after vanilla multi-stakeholder consultative meetings organized by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Association of Vanilla Exporters of Uganda (VANEX).
On May 21, 2019, the agriculture ministry, for the first time declared national vanilla harvest dates as June 15th for the first season and December 15th for the second season. This measure was taken to guide farmers on the right time to harvest their vanilla and reduce premature harvests, curb theft and ensure that good quality vanilla export.
“Enforcing the right harvest dates has proven to be an effective measure in guaranteeing high vanilla quality. It is a well-established fact that vanilla becomes fully mature at 9 months after pollination, by which time the vanillin content is high enough for farmers to harvest and attract good international buyers. However, due to changes in weather patterns, such as late rains and therefore late pollination across all the key vanilla producing regions in Uganda, stakeholders further observed that the bulk of vanilla for the next season would start ripening around the second week of January, 2020, as opposed to the earlier declared date of December 15, 2019,” he said.
On the basis of our consultations with key vanilla exporters, farmers, and district production staff, among others, we wish to make adjustments in the harvest dates for the second season, Kyabazanga told journalists Friday, November 14, 2019.
He further explained, “On behalf of my ministry, therefore, I hereby declare that the harvest date for season 2 shall be January 15th, 2020. Anyone found harvesting or in possession of vanilla before this date will be dealt with by government accordingly. Farmers are required to pick only mature ripe vanilla beans. I would like to direct all my ministry staff to work closely with the private sector to further popularize this new harvest date and work with key agencies to enforce it.”
With support of CRS and VANEX, the ministry organised national and regional multi-stakeholder consultative meetings in Fort Portal, Buikwe and Kampala to reflect on the impact of this measure and find lasting solutions to the key challenges of theft, premature harvest and poor quality.
He said there is an increasing demand for all-natural and organic vanilla from major global food companies especially in Europe and North America.
“For instance, in 2015, nestle announced a major plan to go all-natural for all their products and eliminate artificial additives. Global consumption of vanilla has averaged between 2,100 metric tons to 2,400 metric tons per year over the last ten years. However, the most recent market trends indicate that supply from the key producing countries including Madagascar, Indonesia, Uganda and others is now picking, which, in effect, means that prices will continue to fall in the near future,” Kyabazanga noted. Adding, “This is evidenced by the reduced farm-gate prices which averaged Shs210,000 in the June/July 2019 compared to Sh250,000 in December 2018. This calls for urgent attention to vanilla quality enhancing measures that will ensure that our farmers fetch a fairly good price.”
He emphasized the need for Uganda seize the huge opportunity to position it’s self as the world’s leading supplier of premium quality vanilla, in light of the favorable climate, two crop seasons, good soils and organic or traditional farming practices, which, mostly, entail no usage of synthetic chemicals.
“This presents a window of opportunity to secure a growing, long-term profitable vanilla sector. On the contrary, the international market for natural vanilla is still under threat due to supply of poor quality vanilla resulting from the premature harvesting and poor processing practices by dishonest actors,” Kyabazanga further explained.
“In the face of the upcoming market correction and diminishing prices, there is urgent need to find lasting solutions to the challenges of premature harvesting, theft and resulting poor quality, if we are to secure the market and enable our farmers to enjoy a sustainable price and continue to grow the crop. Moreover, for Uganda to offer a quality-based value proposition to the market, which ultimately should translate into a sustainable price, we need to committedly ensure an appropriate regulatory framework at the national, district and sub-county levels, which will enable farmers to keep vanilla beans on the vines until maturity,” he stated.