Natural vanilla on road to recovery

Vanilla seems to be on the recovery path in India following a dismal phase when farmers destroyed the vines…

Vanilla seems to be on the recovery path in India following a dismal phase when farmers destroyed the vines after failing to sell the beans. Now, farmers who had initially ventured into vanilla are regrouping and planning to revive the plant.

The demand is slowly growing due to the affinity to natural products over synthetic ones.

“Most of the farmers who took the risk in late 90s have abandoned vanilla. There are few farmers in Kerala and Karnataka who still persist with the plant but attention to the farming has been on the wane,” MC Saju of All Kerala Vanilla Growers Association told FE. “We could only collect less than one tonne of green beans from all over the state. Demand is seen good at the retail level but nil at the institutional level,” he added.

After an initial euphoria over the huge returns from vanilla farming, farmers who invested heavily in the plant had to encounter a market where they could not sell their products.

Production of dried beans during 2008-09 was recorded at 200-250 tonne of green beans. Currently, dried beans are quoted around R7,000 per kg and green beans fetch R500 per kg but the availability is low, Saju said.

“Retail demand by interested tourists and people who consume only natural products is seen increasing but at a slow pace,” Saju said. “Vanilla is on the recovery path in India. Demand for natural vanilla will increase slowly, but surely. Given the dwindling supply situation and increasing demand, the fair equilibrium is not far,” he added.

Crop loss due to fungus disease and neglect of the vines has led to supply dropping down considerably.

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