Vanilla in Tanzania: a Brief History and Future Potential


Juan Guardado

Natural Extracts Industries, Ltd.

Moshi, Tanzania



Tanzania has the potential to join Uganda and Congo in establishing East Africa as a reliable supplier of quality, sustainable vanilla pods and derivative products like vanilla extract.  Several factors make this an important region to bolster the global supply, including having the capacity to produce pods with over 3% vanillin content, having multiple harvest seasons spread through the year, mitigating climatic and political risks, and offering unique “terroir” branding opportunities (Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, etc).

However, many of the value chain challenges experienced in Madagascar, such as premature harvesting, have been introduced to Tanzania, especially in areas bordering Uganda, through malpractices enabled by a non-transparent value chain.  This talk provides an overview of Tanzania’s potential volumes in the coming decade and ways in which entrepreneurs are mitigating the aforementioned challenges, formalizing the value chain and bringing transparency to the market. Examples include electronic traceability of outgrower networks, buffering prices through large plantations, and a modernized curing process.  The talk will explore ways in which global collaboration between leading industry stakeholders, such as that done in the high-tech sector (e.g., for WiFi, USB, Bluetooth, etc) and other agricultural value chains (e.g., coffee, cocoa), can bolster emerging origins like Tanzania.

Juan Guardado co-founded NEI Ltd in 2011 and oversees all aspects of the company, bringing to bear his diverse background from multinational blue-chip companies in roles including engineering, management consulting, agricultural financing, and technology-enabled field operations.  He has led several organizations across East Africa.  He founded NEI Ltd as a value-adding manufacturer with the purpose of bringing economic development to rural communities, and has since focused the company on becoming a leading integrated vanilla producer (producing, purchasing, curing, extraction, and marketing) in East Africa. He has lived on 5 continents, having first moved away from El Salvador at the age of 4.  He spends his time playing with his son, Hugo, and their dog, Moshi, while his wife, Dorothy, tries to keep them all out of trouble.  He holds a BEng from McGill University and an MBA from INSEAD.