UGANDA – Vanilla farmers in Rubirizi District have on Monday staged a demonstration over the continued decrease in prices in the district.

Led by their chairperson Ssebugwawo Fabian, farmers noted that a kilogram which used to be sold at UGX 30,000 (USD 7.89) has since declined to between UGX 2000 – 5000 (USD 0.53 – 1.32).

They now want the Ministry of Agriculture to intervene and provide markets for their crop since it’s been their major source of income.

“I planted two acres of vanilla that I can’t even eat as food,” said Ssebugwawo who said he was contemplating removing the crop from his farm.

Isameli Twinomujuni, a vanilla farmer, said that they risk losing property to banks because they have been using loans to invest in the crop.

Meanwhile, Sylvia Katushabe, the Katnda sub-county senior agriculture officer, accused some district officials of introducing a market monopoly which has affected vanilla prices in the district.

This development marks the second consecutive year of public outcry by Ugandan vanilla farmers.

In September last year, vanilla farmers in Ntoroko district and Rwenzori Sub-region at large threatened to abandon the crop and go for other high-value cash crops due to low prices.

The farmers said vanilla prices have continued to drop every year despite the high costs incurred in growing it. The farmers said they incurred losses in the concluded season because of the low demand for the crop.

Rodgers Kule, a vanilla farmer in Ntoroko district stressed that in the previous season, farmers fetched UGX 50,000 (USD 13.14) per kilogramme of vanilla beans, which encouraged more farmers to venture into growing the crop.

He however revealed that this year, the price dropped from UGX 50,000 – 7,000 (USD 13.14 – 1.84) causing farmers to incur losses.

“Vanilla is one of the crops that is too expensive to grow because you invest in a lot of money, ranging from buying seedlings and guarding it to the last hour of harvest. We made more losses when the Ministry of Agriculture set unfavourable date for harvesting,” Kule said, adding that the crop rotted before it could be harvested.

Margret Biira, a farmer who said this was her first season, had 2,500 plants of vanilla and had injected UGX 2.5 million (USD 657) in buying seedlings and over UGX  2 million (USD 525) to look after the garden but nearly earned nothing from the harvests.

“Most of my vanilla beans rotted from the garden; I didn’t even harvest 100 kilograms, which disappointed me. This was a very big loss to me since it was my first time venturing into growing the crop. I will now go for cocoa which currently fetches UGX 11,000 (USD 2.89) per Kilogram,” Biira said.

Vanilla is mainly grown in the central region and the Western Kasese and Bundibugyo districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo by small-scale farmers. Because the crop is vulnerable to pests and fungal infections, most farmers are reluctant to take up its cultivation.

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