"Not enough vanilla to meet world demand"

15 Mar 2017

A blog post on the company’s web site by Josephine Lochhead, President

of vanilla supplier Cook Flavoring Company, notes a major disaster that has hit the vanilla region of Madagascar.

Not enough vanilla to meet world demand

A blog post on the company’s web site by Josephine Lochhead, President

of vanilla supplier Cook Flavoring Company, notes a major disaster that has hit the vanilla region of Madagascar. Cyclone Enawo destroyed a significant portion of Madagascar’s vanilla crop with a direct strike on Antalaha and Sambava, the two largest vanilla producing areas in the Sava region. According to reports, most of the crop (90-100%) in Antalaha has been destroyed and 80% of the crop in Sambava.

According to Lochhead, the cyclone will have severe negative impact on the vanilla market, with U.S. prices expected to rise from $500/kilo for premium quality Madagascar vanilla to over $600/kilo.

She notes that Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are currently curing their vanilla, for delivery to the market in late spring/summer, and that Cook has already been contacted by sellers in those regions who are feeling out the market and floating prices above $500.

Vanilla beans were on the vine ripening when the cyclone struck, Lochhead writes. These beans are currently very immature and should remain on the vine at least another three months. Properly ripened vanilla requires 9 months on the vine. Official harvest (opening day of the vanilla campaign) is June 20th in Madagascar.

“Past experience provides some guidance on what to expect,” writes Lochhead. “In April 2000, Cyclone Hudah hit the Sava of Madagascar causing similar destruction. Vanilla on the vine during Hudah was processed and sold as ‘hurricane vanilla.’ We expect the same to happen this year. The quality of this vanilla will be very poor. It’s equivalent to harvesting California wine grapes in May instead of September. All flavor in the vanilla bean is developed in its last 3-4 months on the vine (March, April, May and June in Madagascar). The vanilla bean may be at full weight and size at 5 months, but the last 4 months are the most critical because the bean is ripening and developing its flavor components.”

The cyclone has, she believes, inflamed an already very volatile market.

“Global supplies were already tight and prices were at a record high. All hopes were focused on a large, healthy crop expected in Madagascar, producer of 80% of the world’s vanilla supply. The effects of Enawo on the vanilla market will be extreme. There will simply not be enough vanilla to meet the world demand. Last year’s campaign saw a frenzied rush for vanilla into the Madagascar bush, sending green prices soaring to $60 to $80 per kilo. That will be nothing compared to what’s coming this year,” concluded Lochhead.