Vanilla in Madagascar

Media CenterUganda Announces New Vanilla Regulations in a Move that Could Affect American Consumers

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Catholic Relief Services

Kampala, Uganda: Flavia Lanyero
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Nairobi, Kenya: Will Baxter
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Baltimore, Maryland: Nikki Gamer
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443-955-7125

 

Increased production and sales of Ugandan vanilla could help stabilize volatile market prices

KAMPALA, UGANDA, May 30, 2019 – In what’s been called a game-changer for the Ugandan vanilla industry, the government has taken an important step to turn the nation into a global leader in vanilla production by limiting the time the crop can be harvested. The United States is one of the top buyers of Ugandan vanilla, and with rising global demand, the scramble for the crop has resulted in premature harvesting, frequent instances of theft and even killings of farmers.

The Ugandan government has set official harvest dates for vanilla as a way to protect smallholder farmers, increase production and stimulate trade. Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international aid agency of the U.S. Catholic Church, has been working with the Ugandan government, farmers and exporters to establish this regulatory framework.

“This move, along with further regulatory measures, has the potential to significantly grow Uganda’s vanilla industry,” said Dominic Mutabazi, CRS Uganda’s deputy head of programming. “If this legislation can stop the sale of vanilla when it is too early, it will raise the overall quality of the marketplace. This will enable farmers to get a fair price while ensuring that global buyers are getting the highest quality beans.” 

The official harvest dates, which were announced May 21 by Hon. Christopher Kibazanga, Uganda’s Minister of State for Agriculture, are June 15 for the first harvest and December 15 for the second harvest.

The vanilla bean, which is grown in 25 districts across the country, is commonly referred to in Uganda as “green gold” because of rising global demand. The government has promised to enforce the new harvest dates by punishing those who break the law.

“We have observed that each time vanilla prices rise, the worst cases of theft, loss of lives, extensive premature vanilla harvest and subsequently overall poor quality in the Uganda vanilla sector are recorded,” stated Uganda’s Agriculture Minister Christopher Kibazanga, in the government’s official press release.

Madagascar continues to produce most of the world’s vanilla, accounting for upwards of 90% of the global supply. In comparison, Uganda accounts for only about 5% . However, market experts say that an increase in the supply of high-quality Ugandan vanilla could help stabilize the market price of vanilla globally, as well as increase profits for Ugandan farmers.

“If there is a problem with supply from Madagascar, then prices soar. When they come back, the price spike plummets, so the result is a highly volatile market,” explained Jefferson Shriver, an expert on value chains at CRS. “A solution to this volatility is more than one source. For American consumers, this could mean a price drop at the grocery store.”

In addition to working with the Ugandan government on creating a regulatory framework, CRS is working with vanilla and coffee farmers in the Kasese and Buikwe Districts on crop diversification and other farming techniques to help build their resilience to price volatility.

“The next frontier is to continue engaging the government on the finalization of the ordinances and the national regulation framework, which we hope to get done in coming months,” Mutabazi said. “The June season has already been lost as most vanilla has already been stolen. We now have the opportunity to turn the tide for the December harvest period to show that regulations can ensure vanilla farmers are able to sell high quality vanilla on the global market.”

Don Seville of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative added, “We are encouraged to see this serious effort by government and the sector to regain the quality that Uganda needs for the vanilla sector to grow and thrive in the future.” 

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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Nikki Gamer

Media Relations Manager

Nikki Gamer
May 30, 2019

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Media Relations Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement of...More