ROUNDUP: more expensive than silver: experts hope for falling vanilla prices

HAMBURG / ANTANANARIVO (dpa-AFX) – According to experts, shortly before the arrival of the new vanilla crop from Madagascar, there are prospects for slightly decreasing prices. The pods are also expected to be of better quality, according to the German vanilla importer Berend Hachmann and the head of the association of export companies in Madagascar, Georges Geeraerts. Recently there were complaints about delivery problems and a lower quality of the coveted spice. Madagascar, an island state on the southeast coast of Africa, is the world's foremost vanilla producer.

Vanilla prices have recently risen to between $ 500 and $ 600 ($ 431 to $ 518) per kilogram – just over one pound of silver that would cost about $ 460. The harvest of this year can only be sold from 15 October. Projections now assumed that the level could fall between $ 450 and $ 475, Hachmann reported.

The previous price was too high, says geeraerts exporter: "There is a lot of speculation on the market and it is clear that this speculative bubble will eventually burst." The only question is when. However, in light of the continuing high demand for top vanilla, he does not expect prices to fall.

Vanilla is not only used for products such as ice cream, cake, cookies, yogurt, sweets and the like, but also for scents, body lotions, bath products or soap. In cheaper products mainly vanillin is used, but with quality products it is not possible to travel around Madagascar. The island represents about 80 producers of world production. Especially the so-called bourbon vanilla, which can come exclusively from Madagascar, La Réunion or the Comoros, is being sought by importers.

Because the pods had to remain in the bushes for almost a month longer this year – until July 15th – experts expect the quality of the harvest to be about the same. "As long as the harvest date is respected, we should get more adult vanilla and better quality this year," Geeraerts said.

Vanilla pods develop their full aroma only on the perennials for the last two months. As a result of the strong price increases, however, farmers had recently harvested the pods much too early, for fear of theft. As a result, the contents of the valuable ingredient vanillin had dropped. Ideally, the climbing orchid pods contain about two percent of the precious flavor. Vanilla was first cultivated in Mexico, where the herb was valued by the Aztecs and Maya as a delicacy.

In the main cultivation areas in the province of Sava in the northeast of the poor island state of Madagascar, farmers have joined forces to form village militias to protect their crops. Many of them slept for up to six months with a club or gun among the vanilla trees, explained Geeraerts. "Imagine this: if tomatoes cost 3000 euros per kilo, the farmers suddenly slept with the rifle in the vegetable garden." The state offers insufficient security. / Uta / DP / pc

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