Maybe you know it, maybe you don’t know : 80 % of the vanilla consumed throughout the world comes from Madagascar. And this is where the problem lies. Prices, since a few months, are skyrocketing. These days, they talk about 500 euros a kilo ($560.00) when it was at 65 euros ($90.00) in 2014.
Why ? What is the reason? Very simple : because speculators got in the game. And who are those speculators? Rosewood dealers, a species whose exportation is strictly forbidden in Madagascar, who, in order to launder the huge amounts they gain from their illegal trade, buy large quantities of vanilla they store after under vacuum, creating this way an artificial scarcity and therefore spiralling prices.
Equally serious: quality, in many cases, does not come. Example: the simple fact to store vanilla under vacuum is not without danger. Indeed, as the pod is not dried (because of course the drying step has been skipped), the moisture created favors the growth of phenol, a very harmful molecule for vanilla and impossible to remove.
There is more. Unscrupulous producers, attracted of course by the unprecedented rising prices, do not hesitate to cut corners (because growing vanilla is not that simple, there several steps to overcome). They adulterate the product so much so that the vanilla rate changed from 1.8% in 2014 to 0.98 % in 2016. Quite a spill for a product we are asked to pay more in addition.
But let us take some consolation: all that speculation around the precious spice will inevitably come to an end, according to the view of specialists in that matter. When producers, speculators and others will see that the buyers will switch to other alternatives such as India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, reason will surely come back like a shot.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more on vanilla and if you can read French, just take a look at this article published in Le monde last January 6th.