Uganda is known for its rich agricultural landscape, producing some of the finest coffee, tea, and cocoa beans on the continent. What many people aren’t aware of, however, is that Uganda is also a leading exporter of vanilla.
Uganda is currently exporting over 400MT of vanilla a year which is more than 50% production increment in a period of 5years.
According to Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), Uganda exported 89.038 Tons of cured vanilla worth USD 8.33 million (30.5 billion shillings) by March, 2023.
Ugandan vanilla is a unique and highly sought-after product, simmering with natural flavors and fragrance that is exclusive from other vanilla products in the world. It’s been described as “exquisite,” “delicious,” and “distinctive” by those who have had the pleasure of tasting it. It is for this matter that Ugandan vanilla exporters signed huge deals to export the product to Serbia during the opening of the Uganda Connect trade hub in Belgrade in July this year.
Simon Musisi, Chief Executive Officer of The Simons Uga Limited dealing in premium quality vanilla is one of those who signed deals. He is a processor and exporter of vanilla beans, powder and vanilla pure extracts. “Vanilla processing requires a production team of persons who are trained and experts in that field in order to achieve a higher vanillin and good quality vanilla that can match the global standards of the international food industry.” he says. His major export market is USA and Europe.
The major markets for Uganda’s Vanilla include; USA, Indonesia, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Denmark, Check Republic, Switzerland and Republic of Korea.
One of the unique qualities of Ugandan vanilla is its hand-picked, thanks to farmers harvesting plants only when they reach maturity, using traditional and time-honored techniques to guarantee the quality of their crops. This dedication to quality ensures that the product is of high value to consumers who seek natural and unique products, which gives Uganda a competitive edge in the global market.
Uganda, the second-largest exporter of vanilla in Africa behind Madagascar, has various suitable growing conditions for vanilla, making it possible to produce a substantial and consistent quantity of vanilla beans every year. The country has two vanilla seasons, the June-July harvest and December-January harvest. The districts of Kayunga, Mukono, Mpigi, Jinja, Kmauli, Bundibugyo, Luwero and Kasese are the biggest vanilla growing regions in Uganda. Vanilla production of vanilla in Uganda is picking up, and farmers are working tirelessly to meet the growing demand for this natural and delectable ingredient.
Vanilla is a significant source of income for many small-scale farmers in Uganda. It provides a valuable opportunity for economic growth and stability in communities across the country. Musisi provides employment to thousands of people during the two seasons of vanilla harvesting. “We directly work with more than 2000 farmers and over 10,000 farmers through general suppliers.”
Vanilla production is an ideal business for farmers in Uganda because it requires a relatively small amount of land and can be grown alongside other crops. This makes it an affordable crop for small-scale farmers who may not have access to a lot of land.
When it comes standards, Musisi says he does not compromise on quality as he always exports the best that meets regional and international standards. “Vanilla is a raw material for the food industry, quality is a major requirement. Therefore, global food standards are mandatory. This is a major challenge that we have tackled through training our farmers and general suppliers to consider good agricultural practices. For example, farmers should not use pesticides on their vanilla farms or intercropping their vanilla gardens with crops that require pesticides, the farmers must harvest their vanilla after maturity and on proper harvest dates,” he emphasizes.
It is because of practices like these that Ugandan vanilla offers unique and exceptional taste and is highly valued in the global market. Uganda’s vanilla industry has transformed into a profitable export, driving economic growth and providing opportunities for local farmers. However, stakeholders must address challenges related to sustainability and market volatility to ensure the long-term growth and success of the industry.
Vanilla is one of the thirteen priority sectors the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) under the leadership of its Chairman, Odrek Rwabwogo, is working with to grow Uganda’s exports revenue to USD6B and beyond by 2028.