In late February of 2017, a market report was released by a European company that has been in the vanilla business for more than 100 years and is known for their honest and reliable industry assessments. The report addressed the chaotic conditions on the ground in Madagascar. It also provided a clearer picture of what to expect when the 2017 crop is harvested in May/June and what to anticipate in November when the beans are ready to be sold on the wholesale market.
Beautiful, exotic Mexico. Warm weather, gorgeous beaches, a rich and varied culture, delicious food, and…the birthplace of vanilla. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, duh! I buy my fabulous vanilla there every time I visit.” In which case you should take a moment to read about your fabulous vanilla here. Otherwise, here is a brief overview of the history of the Mexican vanilla industry and why Mexican vanilla beans are difficult to come by today.
For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see “Why is Vanilla so Expensive?“
Have you noticed that vanilla prices have been creeping up for the last two years?
Well, now the price of vanilla has gone through the roof!
Frustrating? You bet, especially as we enter the autumn baking season and the holidays.
So why are the prices climbing and where can you find cheap vanilla? It turns out the answer is complicated.
Think shortage – One cyclone can wipe out a third of the year’s vanilla crop overnight!
Nearly everything we purchase is priced according to supply and demand, and this is especially true with food. Whereas clothing, washing machines, cars and other man-made goods typically are pretty consistently available, agricultural products are subject to weather patterns, pests, pathogens and even human manipulation.
Because we live in a global economy, if there’s a wheat shortage due to bad weather in our Midwest, our government can buy wheat from another country. Prices will go up, but bakeries won’t shut down and flour will still be on market shelves. The same is true with last year’s egg shortage. Avian Flu decimated many commercial egg producing facilities but only in some regions. We could still find eggs at the market, but we paid dearly for them. Now, almost a year later, there is a glut of eggs again.
This report comes from Aust and Hachmann, Canada and is based on the North American Vanilla Bean Importer’s
Association (NAVBIA) report. I am adding to this report the latest information on Mexican beans.
Mexico had a disastrous year in 2011 due to extreme heat and drought, and had 10% of their normal crop. 2012 was far less hot and there was ample rainfall. Unfortunately, the plants were so stressed from the previous year that the crop was again 10% of normal. There will be very few beans coming from Mexico this year. Hopefully there will be enough to produce extracts, but at this time we simply don’t know what to expect. [PR]
As farmers anywhere in the world can testify, as the climate changes, so does the health of their crops. For those of us who are not farmers, we hear a lot about the effects of climate change in the arctic and antarctic but we don’t hear much about what’s happening in the tropical regions of the world. Unfortunately, the temperature has risen about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 25 years or so, which is significant for coffee, vanilla and cacao. Here is one man who is doing what he can to bring change to southern Mexico. This article is from the Nature Conservancy. [PR]
The North American Vanilla Bean Importers Association (NAVBIA) has launched a new website. The association was formed by several vanilla trading companies who are very concerned about the continued low prices of vanilla and how this is affecting vanilla growers worldwide. The low prices, caused in part by companies who are not adhering to the FDA regulations for the use of pure vanilla in frozen desserts and other foods, the NAVBIA has taken a proactive stance about this issue with the hope that manufacturers who have been violating the law, will move into compliance.
Some changes have occurred in the world market over the last year which may be helpful for farmers growing certain luxury crops. Unfortunately, it’s often at the expense of other farmers. The January floods in North- and Southeast Australia, Sri Lanka and Brazil have caused tremendous suffering for thousands of people. We are definitely seeing the effects of global climate change and the tropics are experiencing extreme weather events.
Here are the current updates on pricing and availability for coffee, tea, cacao, vanilla and sugar. The prices can change very quickly as you know, so this is simply a guideline for what to anticipate.