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The 2017 crop is now being exported. Since October, many exporters have been playing catch up due to the pent-up demand caused by an export ban in September. Prices have stabilized, but remain at very high levels, just below the levels created by the post cyclone hysteria in April/May 2017.

Although the quality of the 2017 crop is better than the 2016 crop, this is still not a “vintage” year by any means. Vanilla grown closer to major roads and populations is more difficult to police and often harvested prematurely. As a rule, the more rural a growing area the greater the success rate when curbing early picking and theft of green beans. The level of maturity of the green vanilla is the greatest influencing factor on quality and yield for any vanilla crop.

There are still significant quantities of sub-standard vanilla circulating in Madagascar due to early picking or early vacuum packing.

Demand for pure, natural vanilla has been growing after food manufacturers shifted from artificial flavoring. Farmers haven’t been able to keep up with increasing consumption, as it takes three to four years for plants to start producing vanilla beans.

Global Impact

When prices are high, it gives farmers an incentive to pick the beans before they reach maturity. Immature beans lack flavour. When price reaches a certain limit, some companies opt for synthetic vanillin. Natural vanilla is more important in ice cream products than in bakery products which include other ingredients.

Uganda: The climate allows two vanilla harvests a year. The global vanilla shortage affects prices and supplies here too.

India: Vanilla is labour intensive compared with other spices and the sustained period of lower prices, has led to less interest in growing vanilla. Many people prefer working in towns to farms in the country. The good news is vanilla replanting has started in India.

April 2018

NOTE: India has been producing high quality vanilla for many years but it is still events in Madagascar that affect the global supply. More than 80% of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar.