Questions over the recovery in vanilla production in Madagascar, the world’s top grower, are helping support the elevated pricing of recent years. After dipping closer to US$550 per kg of vanilla beans at the end of last year, pricing is now reported back above US$600—a massive increase from prices around US$25 ten years ago.
As is the case with vanilla, high prices mean manifold complications. Not least among these is the early picking and improper curing of beans, leading to less flavorful and lower-quality vanilla. And as beans grow more expensive, so do thefts, robberies, and murders—the dark side of what would otherwise be a boon for the Malagasy population, more than 70 percent of whom live at or below poverty levels. As in Madagascar, these incidents are also being reported in Uganda.
U.S. imports of vanilla products are naturally affected by the high pricing for beans, despite the spice’s continuing popularity and the public’s growing appetite for “natural” products.
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U.S. vanilla imports, quarterly
Source: USITC, McKeany-Flavell
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