This is only an excerpt of the full article that appeared in P&F Magazine. The full content is not currently available online.
In the May issue of P&F magazine, we approached suppliers and formulators to offer their feedback on the state of vanilla. As the political crisis in Madagascar drags on and the overall financial climate sours, we ask: what is the current state of vanilla in F&F and what will it be over the next 12 months? As part of our continuing online conversation, we offer another in a series of Web Exclusive insights. Send us your thoughts and feedback here.
While some may be currently exaggerating the impact of plant disease in Madagascar to bolster flagging prices, the problem should not be ignored. Fusarium and phytophora can have catastrophic effects on the temperamental vanilla orchid. Long-serving industry experts will recall that fusarium wiped out entire producing regions in Indonesia during the 1980s. The fact that disease has appeared at all in Madagascar after being virtually non-existent for decades begs a simple question: how did it arrive?
Vanilla vines, just like people, become susceptible to illness when experiencing stress and fatigue due to excessive work. Given the very low prices currently paid on the open market for green vanilla beans, the farmer is simply pollinating more flowers on a single vine than he should. This maximizes the farmer’s sales in the short term, but also overworks his vines and thereby jeopardizes their long term health. For reference, good vanilla cultivation practices call for pollinating no more than eight flowers per cluster on a vine. It has been reported that many farmers in Madagascar are pollinating more than double that amount today. This practice has only emerged over the last five years.