The vanilla sky glows for farmers again

Published: 07th June 2016 05:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th June 2016 05:14 AM   |  A+A-

KOCHI: It’s deja vu for vanilla farmers in Kerala.

Nearly five years after the farmers in the state dumped vanilla cultivation following the crash in the prices of the beans, the prices have skyrocketed once again. The price of Madagascar vanilla (Madagascar accounts for over 80 per cent of world’s vanilla produce) has risen by over 130 per cent to $250 per kg (about `16,700) from last year, luring local farmers to try their luck again.

But this time there is a problem: the farmers are not able to grow the beans which at current prices is the second-most expensive spice after saffron.

“I have tried to grow vanilla seeing the rise in prices since last year but it’s becoming next to impossible. I think, the main reason is the change in climatic conditions besides the recurrence of fungus attack,” said M C Saju, who had grown vanilla during the boom of early 2000s.

M K Manmadan Nair, a member of Vanilla Producers Association, Ramamangalam, said farmers are showing renewed interest in growing the spice, despite the setback of the price crash since 2008 to `40.

The.jpgThe sudden spurt in prices is due to drop in output after a poor flowering season and also importers stocking up on supply anticipating further hike.

T V Thomas, senior manager of Vanilco (Vanilla India Producers Company) said he suspected the rise in prices to speculative activities. He said Vanilco still has about 450 kg of vanilla extraction with it. “There has not been commensurate increase in prices for vanilla extraction, which can retain the aroma and flavour for 10 years,” he said.

According to Thomas, vanilla will be difficult to grow in the soil where it was grown earlier. “During the last boom it was grown in plains, mainly Koothattukulam, Kolencherry belt. This time, there are attempts to grow vanilla in Kannur, Kasargod, Wayanad and in places such as Murikkassery, Kumali and Kattappana in Idukki,” he said.

Viju Jacob, Deputy Managing Director of Synthite Industries, one of the largest value-added spice producer in the world, said his firm imports vanilla at $250 per kg from Madagascar for making various vanilla extracts. “The Spice Board should promote vanilla cultivation to a small extent. Right now, we are fully dependent on Madagascar,” he said.

Reaping dividends

Farmers showing renewed interest in growing the spice, despite price crash since 2008 to J 40

The price of Madagascar vanilla has risen by over 130 per cent to $250 per kg from last year

Sudden spurt in prices due to drop in output after a poor flowering season and importers stocking up on supply anticipating further hike.

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