Vanilla prices are expected to increase significantly within the next few months due to a vanilla bean shortage. USA Today reported the news on March 29th and also added that the major vanilla-based products that will be affected include desserts such as ice-cream and cakes, and perfumes.
According to USA Today’s report, Madagascar, the world’s leading vanilla bean producers, had a poor harvest last year, leading to this year’s shortage. This reduced harvest alone has lead to a 150 percent increase in vanilla prices. Bloomberg News also reported that the increased price of vanilla is also due to the long, labor-intensive cultivation process that the product goes through. According to Bloomberg, the price increase is almost three times more expensive than the typical average price. Today’s vanilla price overseas (e.g. the United Kingdom) is roughly $250 a kilogram. Last year, it was $80 a kilogram. In the United States, vanilla bean prices went from $97 a gallon to $205 a gallon.
Vanilla’s cultivation process starts with pollination. The vanilla flower, which is related to the orchid flowering plant, is pollinated by hand. Each vanilla flower opens once for the season and has to be pollinated on that day or vanilla cannot be extracted from that flower. The vanilla is then cured in a drying and sweating process, which can take anywhere from three to six months.
Vanilla is the second most expensive flavoring in the world (saffron is the most expensive), but news outlets like USA Today predict it may exceed the price of saffron due to the shortage.