Papua New Guinea’s organically certified vanilla can demand premium prices


To cater for growing global demand for organically-grown vanilla, Madang-based exporter Kamapin is expanding its support for Papua New Guinea’s vanilla growers. Business Advantage PNG spoke with Managing Director, Dr Nancy Irwin, about the crop’s potential.

Kamapin’s field officers have trained 13,000 small-holding farmers in the Morobe and Madang districts over the past four years.

Kamapin’s Managing Director, Dr Nancy Irwin, believes Papua New Guinea – which historically has been a top-five global vanilla producer – could double its existing K82 million vanilla exports within the next few years.

However, given the availability of cheaper vanilla substitutes – typically made from clove extracts – she warns the economics need to justify the extra costs involved, especially while global vanilla prices remain depressed.

PNG’S vanilla is, by default, ‘organically’ grown. Irwin tells Business Advantage PNG that the goal now is to get as many vanilla farmers officially certified as organic growers, which can take up to three years of crop production to achieve.

‘While 70-80 per cent of PNG’s vanilla is organically grown, less than 1 per cent currently has organic certification,’ says Irwin, whose organisation has trained 13,000 small-holding farmers in Morobe and Madang districts over the past four years.

‘We can’t keep up with the global demand for two species of vanilla grown in PNG, and it’s our job to find the price premium required to grow a superior product.’

‘As technology improves, the ability to certify small-holding farmers in remote “last-mile” locations will become easier,’ she explains.

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In addition to proving crops are grown without chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or other artificial aids, organic certification provides transparency and traceability back to the farm and batch.

Premium pricing

Kamapin’s Dr Nancy Irwin

Irwin says customers demanding ‘real’ organically certified vanilla must be willing to pay a sufficient premium to justify the additional mapping, transport, storage and supply-chain costs exporters have to pay to acquire and maintain organic certification.

‘Kamapim has invested heavily in organic certification and is certain there are customers willing to pay more for excellent PNG produce.’

‘We can’t keep up with the global demand for two species of vanilla grown in PNG, and it’s our [Kamapin’s] job to find the price premium required to grow a superior product,’ she notes.

Since April 2023, Belgian-owned Kamapim has helped 1,400 vanilla small-holder farmers from 17 remote villages achieve organic (US) NOP certification and Irwin expects this number to double next year.

Other projects

Irwin notes other major projects are driving the improved quality of vanilla in PNG.

For instance, smallholder farmers in East and West Sepik, where 80 per cent of PNG vanilla is currently grown, are receiving assistance from the K360 million European Union-supported STREIT PNG project.

Meanwhile, the Ok Tedi Development Foundation, together with West Agro Holdings and Innovative Agro
Industry opened a multi-million kina vanilla processing project near Kiunga in the North Fly District of Western Province in June.

The Fly Vanilla project features a nursery demonstration plot and 14 greenhouses over an area of 2 hectares. Its goal is to produce 20 tonnes of premium vanilla beans annually.

‘This helps rural small-holder farmers develop sustainable livelihoods in small footprint while protecting some of the world’s most diverse rainforests on the planet,’ observes Irwin.


  1. Vivienne Yariyari says

    Interested to receive updates with stories on organically growing Vanilla by farmers in PNG

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