Vanilla and men
For 150 years, it was the French colonies that carried the torch for the development of crosses, perfumes, preparation and drying techniques, which still places them today at the forefront of the quality of the finished product.
However, the vanilla planet experienced its first major economic shock at the turn of the 90s. Under pressure from the World Bank, to which it owed a lot of money, Madagascar was forced to give up its price controls, abandoning its peasants vanilla trees in the merciless grip of the big world producers of aromas such as Coca Cola, Nielsen-Massey or Nestlé.
Eventually, controls were put in place to counterbalance the savage capitalism faced by the peasants, and a system of approval and market opening limited to specific dates was put in place.
Only 200 approvals are issued each year to collectors who soon found themselves, in turn, grappling with the laws of a cruel market. When some made their fortune at the beginning by buying vanilla from farmers at low prices and reselling it at high prices, several collectors went bankrupt when prices collapsed, abandoned by their buyers and still holders of vanilla bought above selling price.
In the past four years, prices have risen to a high level, flirting with the $ 600 mark in 2018 and rarely falling below $ 400 since. (The current rate in the fall of 2019 was approximately $ 420 per kilo.) The peak is sometimes attributed to a 2015 announcement by Nestlé SA that the company would only use all-natural vanilla in its products instead of l artificial flavor. Other companies have followed suit. The real impact of the decision is under debate.
Regardless of the validity of these speculations, few people in the industry say that the demand for natural vanilla has changed enough to protect prices from another drop. Almost everyone in the vanilla industry thinks that a significant drop in prices is not a question of if, but rather of when.
And when more than 80% of the vanilla industry comes from the island of Madagascar alone, the rest of the world takes its cold.