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Vanilla shortage could mean higher prices

29 March 2016 by
Vanilla shortage could mean higher prices

The price of Madagascan vanilla increased by nearly 150% last year after a poor harvest on the island in the Indian Ocean.

Food manufacturers could be in for an expensive summer as prices continue to rise as demand increases and supplies shrink.

Charlie Thuillier, the founder and managing director of the ice-cream brand Oppo, told The Guardian the cost of the vanilla extract his company buys has spiked. "The price has doubled in the last month. We were paying €35 (£27) a litre in February but now its €76 (£60)."

The curing process, which involves drying the beans in the sun by day and allowing them to sweat in a box at night, takes three to six months.

Silver Spoon, who distributes the American Nielsen-Massey vanilla brand in the UK, also commented: "The market price of vanilla has risen over the past 12 months, and sharply over the last 12 weeks. This has been driven largely by a poor quality harvest in Madagascar. Our hope is that vanilla prices will return to a more stable level in the future."

The data company Mintec has reported that Madagascan vanilla bean was changing hands for £144 a kilogram in January compared with £59 at the start of 2015.

The prices increases will affect companies that use the ingredient in products including soft drinks, cakes and desserts. However, as summer approaches ice-cream makers, will find that their most expensive ingredient has trebled in price and some will be forced to pass on the increased cost to consumers.

Thuillier added: "Managing the price increase is a bit of a challenge for us but we haven't changed supplier. If you are doing battle with giants like Unilever you need a product that's unbelievable. We will sell more."

Alongside the poor harvest there are rumours that vanilla farmers in Madagascar harvested their 2015 crop prematurely, in fear of losing their production to thieves, this combined with inadequate drying in order to increase profits from crops could also lead to lower quality vanilla.

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