As markets in Madagascar open, we're seeing parallels—though on a much bigger scale—to this year's Tongan market. It's extremely tight, extremely competitive. And prices are so far going higher than last year's.
Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are also producing vanilla, and we are operating on all fronts to source the highest quality and best-priced crops. As 2016 shapes up to push Madagascar's prices to Crisis-like levels, companies are flying in with private planes to pick up their stocks. With a heavy tax levy added to each kilo of vanilla exported from Madagascar—unseen since the 1990s, when the tariff was eliminated in the wake of the abolishing of the famous quota system--we are looking at a more heavily regulated market and the price stabilizing to a level much higher than we hoped.
Outlined below are specifics about each market we're working in.
For the first year, we are partnering with Pure Vanilla and Madagascar Spices Co. to work locally in Madagascar. Based in Sambava, they have launched the season following the official opening of the 2016 campaign late last month. The early campaign officially opened on May 5 and lasted only 10 days in the Ambanja Region. Green prices opened at about US$22/kg and escalated to more than US$30/kg in only a few days, with a larger than expected amount of collectors there to buy. Anticipation of the official opening of the larger Sambava market on June 20 saw green prices open at US $33/kg—a price much higher than most had expected .
Prices have since continued to escalate to US$40/kg. Large multinational corporations have injected vast amounts of cash for vanilla into the SAVA. This has excited the market, pushing prices up far beyond expectations. The crop is healthy and plentiful, but the high demand has kept "vanilla fever” at a peak. The Analanjirofo region market is scheduled to open on July 10 with an anticipated 2,000MT high quality green expected. Collectors who haven’t yet met their quotas will likely be buying in this region as well, and prices are expected to remain over US$35/kg green. Additionally, there are large quantities of vrac beans in the bush (vanilla that is partially cured or cured by the farmers) which will be available in September and October. Quality for these beans is not consistent or reliable as many may have been picked immature due to both theft and speculation. At this point, it is expected that prices will remain high or even escalate further for this vrac vanilla when it becomes available later in the season. Many flavor houses have faced depleted inventories in the past two years of shortage, which has created a vacuum and kept the panic going into this year.
The October flowering of the 2017 crop--if it promises an abundant and healthy yield—may stabilize the pricing. However, at this time, demand for vanilla is outpacing supply, and prices will continue their upward momentum through 2016 and into 2017. The good news is that quality is high. Vanillin content is expected to be 1.7% minimum, and in Madagascar there is no longer the issue of vacuum packing on any large scale. We will continue to update you with regional information as Madagascar--king of the vanilla market--still decides what happens with global prices. We will be traveling to the region in a few weeks to see it all for ourselves.
We are currently buying in 'Eua, the last island to harvest vanilla. Vava'u and 'Eua are finished. We appreciate our relationships with farmers we have worked with for many years, and cannot reiterate enough how grateful we are for their trust in us as we worked together through this difficult season. The vanilla is curing up beautifully.
Papua New Guinea, India/Indonesia, and MEXICO
PNG — Papua New Guinea vanilla is finding its welcome place into the market, alleviating some strain with an attractive price point and good quality. Quantities are currently limited, however, but more is sure to become available as the incentive to produce continues with current market prices. We are hoping that Papua New Guinea will remain a player in the future and act as a needed “stabilizer” and competitor to Madagascar. Vanilla grows well and abundantly in PNG. Both varieties, Planifolia and Tahitiensis, are grown with success in the region.
Indonesia/India — These regions are fully engaged to supply larger quantities vanilla in the near future. We expect larger amounts of vanilla becoming available from these regions in 2017, a supply which will soften the current market. The quality, however, is currently below standard with vanillin content below 1% and a very earthy aroma.
Mexico — Quantity in vanilla’s place of origin continues to be limited. We did receive a beautiful shipment recently from Mexico, however. Though the price for these beans are high, they are now lower than Madagascar. We felt a bit like Cortez when he saw Montezuma treasure of vanilla beans when we opened the boxes! The vanilla is some of the best we have ever seen! Black, oily, beautifully fragrant beans 10+ inched in length!