Uganda, the world’s fourth-biggest vanilla exporter, is boosting output to benefit from prices for the flavoring that’s more valuable than silver and have forced growers to hire armed guards to deter thieves.
“When all the conditions are right, Ugandan vanilla can be outstanding,” said Van der Walde, whose company has historically been one of the biggest buyers of Ugandan vanilla.
Prices spiked in the early 2000s, causing buyers to use more synthetic flavors. The market collapsed as a result, with vanilla trading at $30-$80 per kilogram in 2004-2014, leading to farmers curbing production.
Prices have soared since 2015, largely on new demand from major food companies reacting to a consumer preference for natural ingredients.
In Uganda, some farmers responded by picking the beans too early, hurting yields and quality, according to Van der Walde.
“One of the great sadnesses for me is they haven’t taken advantage of the recent high prices,” Van der Walde said. “That’s the jackpot and Uganda was totally unable to take advantage of it. It’s coming now, but it’s late.”
Security’s the main worry for Peter Lutalo, a farmer in Nkokonjeru. He says other growers have hired guards equipped with guns, bows and arrows and machetes to protect their vanilla.
“If you don’t watch over your farm at night, thieves will exploit the laxity and harvest your crop,” the 34-year-old said.
Adopted from Bloomberg