Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive. Despite the expense, vanilla is highly valued for its flavor. Synthetic vanilla has been growing in popularity over the years. While the world trade in natural vanilla is at around 2,000 tonnes of cured beans or approximately 50 tonnes vanilla extract, the demand for synthetic vanillin in 2010 was more than 50,000 tonnes a year. Globally, companies prefer the chemical alternative because it is cheaper.
In East Africa, vanilla is offering an alternative for cash crops such as coffee. Despite the fluctuation of prices in the world market, vanilla can be a good alternative or act as a supplement for farmers income in integrated systems. Though there is a big potential in the international and regional market value chain development need to be undertaken with much emphasis on quality management, market development and building the necessary infrastructure to support production and marketing of vanilla. This survey was done as part of vanilla value chain development for MAYAWA cooperative in Bukoba and was aimed at establishing the market potential for natural vanilla in East Africa.