Ugandan vanilla exporters hail nation’s ability to compete with key Madagascar crops

A key move has been made by the Association of Vanilla Exporters of Uganda Limited (VANEX) in raising awareness of a need to diversify crop sources to avoid supply chain disruptions, as well as spotlighting the unique benefits of Ugandan vanilla, writes Neill Barston.

The ingredient remains especially important for a number of market segments, including across confectionery, snacks and ice cream, though the sector, like many others has experienced price volatility that has impacted on markets around the world.

“Government interference, weather events, and other unexpected impacts can all affect the vanilla supply chain,” VANEX Executive Director Prossy Tumushabe said.  “Food and beverage brands and chefs can stabilize their supply and increase business flexibility by sourcing vanilla from multiple countries of origin.”

With quality on par with Madagascar-sourced vanilla, a unique flavour profile, an ideal growing climate, according to the exporter organisation, Uganda is considered a natural option for brands seeking to diversify their vanilla supply. Some of the factors said to be in its favour including having the same cultivar as vanilla from Madagascar with no discernible difference in quality. It also has High vanillin content of up to 4.5% contributes a bold flavour with notes of cacao and leather from the nutrient-rich soil.

The country has also adopted sustainably growing policies without the use of pesticides, fungicides, tilling, or slash-and burn practices. It also offers two crops per year, and its climate is also favourable for crop stability.

“Diversifying the country of origin for vanilla isn’t top of mind for most brands because they haven’t experienced a disruption yet, but expanding to multiple sources is a great way to future-proof supply,” said Craig Nielsen, vice president of sustainability for NielsenMassey Vanillas, a U.S.-based flavor house. “Uganda isn’t as well-known in the vanilla industry yet, but it’s emerging as a world-class source.”

Furthermore, the organisation asserted that Uganda is positioned to offer vanilla at the volume and specifications required by customers of all sizes. “Uganda exported 250 metric tons of vanilla in 2022 and is positioned to meet increased demand as the market requires,” said Abubaker Mulindwa, managing director of Natural Extract Industries, Uganda Ltd. “Plus, Ugandan vanilla is available in a variety of grades and specifications, including Organic Certified, Fairtrade Certified, Rainforest Alliance Certified, HACCP Certified, and more.”

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