Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Madagascar: vanilla crimes

Vanilla prices are the highest they've ever been ($200/kg) ... most people are paying three times more for a bottle of vanilla as they did three years ago. And according to this report, as prices rise, there seems to be a corresponding rise in the incidents of robbery and murder in Madagascar.

Madagascar produces about 75% of the world's vanilla. Three years ago, Cyclone Hudah destroyed somewhere between 15% and 25% of Madagascar's vanilla crop. Since the orchids take three years to flower, there has been a drop in the supply of vanilla ... and hence a rise in the price.

Now the big problem for Malagasy farmers & exporters ... according to this "... demand for vanilla, which is primarily purchased by American food manufacturers, is projected to fall from 2,000 tons in 2000 to 1,500 tons by next year."

Here is something I didn't know ... the ingredients in imitiation vanilla:
Vanillin, the vital chemical that gives natural vanilla its flavor, is also the key ingredient in most bottles of imitation vanilla.

But most vanillin does not come directly from a vanilla bean. More often it is collected as a byproduct of wood-pulp or petroleum production. It is then combined with several other natural and artificial ingredients to create vanilla taste.