From ice-creams to cake and even perfumes vanilla is going to the flavor of the whole world. In recent years the price of natural vanilla has shot up, at one point it was more expensive than silver by weight.
80% of the world’s vanilla is grown in the perfectly suited climate of the northeast region of Madagascar. Vanilla is a primary export crop for the farmers and life is far sweeter when vanilla price is high. In 2014 vanilla was $80 per kilogram then three years later it was $600, today it’s $500. The price rises because of global demand, the trend of eating naturally means the food company had started to pull their socks up in the real deal. Then farmers started cashing in. They said, the majority of people have built a nice house, children have been able to go far in their studies and our life is really good. But things can change very quickly, price fluctuation affect producers of agriculture commodities everywhere.
Vanilla is particularly volatile in just a few weeks the price can jump over 20%. Liberalization is one reason for such moments. The Madagascar government regulated the vanilla industry and its price, but now the price is negotiated at the point of sell which makes for the free market but more volatile one. It’s also a tiny industry a single cyclone can knock out the crop within Madagascar. It’s also a difficult and delicate crop to grow. Vanilla has a resemblance with the orchid that needs to be hand-pollinated, this is a really labor-intensive practice. Of anyone is grown out an orchid at home, you would have experienced how difficult it is to keep orchids alive in your house. Now trying growing this in the middle of a Madagascar rainforest, it takes roughly 6 months to grow on the vine and then 6 months of manual post-harvesting. The interesting fact about vanilla is you need to take it off the vine when it’s almost rooted.
The growers have to handle another problem, thieves eyes on vanilla crop. So Madagascans are sleeping now in their vanilla fields. They can’t rely on those who can’t stick to the harsh stage, to protect them, and to protect their crops they have to take matters in their own hands. It leads to some problems vigilante justice and a whole host of other violence connected to vanilla. Some farmers have resorted to harvesting the beans before they are ripe. But this produces a poor quality of vanilla and ultimately pushes down from the price.
The combination of determination of quality and high prices is having an effect. The vanilla price bubble may burst. Overprice continues to stay high there’s a number of scenarios that play out, we can continue as we are now and have relatively a stable market where farmers are growing vanilla under very disturbed conditions. They need to re-regulate the market in some way that might stabilize the prices and also quality or might market crash out. Big buyers that need vanilla for the demanding taste that people want are now working directly with farmers
in a bid to gain the control over quality. Other companies have started to look elsewhere for their natural vanilla. Indonesia, Uganda, and even in the Netherlands are growing the crop. For a century Madagascar hasn’t enjoyed the name in vanilla. But this industry has different sorts of obstacles but few resources to make the perfect vanilla which makes it expensive.