Madagascar cyclones may be boon to vanilla market
March 27, 2007
The vanilla supply glut and corresponding low prices are partly the result of past cyclones in Madagascar. In 2002 storms destroyed much of the country's crop causing prices of the vanilla to skyrocket. The high prices spurred other countries including Papua New Guinea, Uganda, India, Costa Rica and Colombia to enter the vanilla business. Their production came online in 2004-2005, just as Madagascar's vanilla supply returned, causing wholesale bean prices the collapse by almost 90 percent from their peak in December 2003.
Vanilla is the only orchid that produces an edible fruit. Originally from Mexico, vanilla was introduced to Madagascar during the nineteenth century, but without the native pollinators (bees and hummingbirds) local growers must hand pollinate the plant. This makes vanilla perhaps the most labor-intensive crop in the world, taking as long as five years between first planting the vine and producing aged extract.
For the vanilla farmers who were able to escape the recent cyclones unscathed, their neighbors' misfortune may be their biggest break in years.
Anita, Bondo, Clovis, Favio, and Indlala are the storms that battered Madagascar this cyclone season. According to initial government estimates, about 80 percent of the country's vanilla production was lost to Indlala, the storm that hit northeastern Madagascar last week.
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