Eager bakers may face a cake crisis as vanilla supply evaporates

Michelle Chow’s baking supply store Vanilla Food Company is out of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans and she doesn’t know when she’ll get new stock.

The world’s supplier of what Chow calls the “Mercedes of all beans” is suffering a shortage.

High demand combined with natural disaster created shortages devastating the production process. Growers and pickers of vanilla beans in the east African island country were left scrambling to get crops back on track. The shortages in Madagascar have far reaching consequences for buyers and consumers, including those here in Toronto whose businesses rely on the popular flavour.

“There are other wonderful types — Tahitian, Mexican, Indian — but Madagascar is the most widely used and sold,” says Chow, whose Markham-based company has been out of Madagascar vanilla bean stock for six months. Chocolate instead keeps the business afloat during the vanilla crisis.

Madagascar’s global share of the vanilla market is nearly 80 per cent, according to a spring report by U.S. supplier Nielsen-Massey. But in 2016, demand hit such a high as large companies moved from synthetic to natural flavouring that vanilla experts predicted shortages and price surges. Supply could not keep up with demand.

Then cyclone Enawo hit in March — the strongest in 13 years to hit the country — and the crisis got worse as some 30 per cent of the crops were damaged, according to vanilla producers on the island, Reuters reported in March.

Prices surged for companies around the world. One pound of vanilla beans sold for $89 nine months ago, says Chow. Today, the same amount could cost more than six times that — if you can get it. She has noticed that people have switched to vanilla extract or vanilla paste. “But even that has skyrocketed … You need vanilla beans to make extract and paste,” she says.

The next crop of vanilla beans is expected to be ready for harvest in spring of 2018, says Chow. Many vanilla farmers had to start their crops from scratch and while other countries have tried to capitalize on the high prices and enter the vanilla trade, it can take years before they produce market-ready crops, says David Van der Walde, director of Aust & Hachmann Canada, a Quebec-based vanilla importer.

Michelle Chow’s baking supply store Vanilla Food Company is out of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans and she doesn’t know when she’ll get new stock.

The world’s supplier of what Chow calls the “Mercedes of all beans” is suffering a shortage.

High demand combined with natural disaster created shortages devastating the production process. Growers and pickers of vanilla beans in the east African island country were left scrambling to get crops back on track. The shortages in Madagascar have far reaching consequences for buyers and consumers, including those here in Toronto whose businesses rely on the popular flavour.

“There are other wonderful types — Tahitian, Mexican, Indian — but Madagascar is the most widely used and sold,” says Chow, whose Markham-based company has been out of Madagascar vanilla bean stock for six months. Chocolate instead keeps the business afloat during the vanilla crisis.

Madagascar’s global share of the vanilla market is nearly 80 per cent, according to a spring report by U.S. supplier Nielsen-Massey. But in 2016, demand hit such a high as large companies moved from synthetic to natural flavouring that vanilla experts predicted shortages and price surges. Supply could not keep up with demand.

Then cyclone Enawo hit in March — the strongest in 13 years to hit the country — and the crisis got worse as some 30 per cent of the crops were damaged, according to vanilla producers on the island, Reuters reported in March.

Prices surged for companies around the world. One pound of vanilla beans sold for $89 nine months ago, says Chow. Today, the same amount could cost more than six times that — if you can get it. She has noticed that people have switched to vanilla extract or vanilla paste. “But even that has skyrocketed … You need vanilla beans to make extract and paste,” she says.

The next crop of vanilla beans is expected to be ready for harvest in spring of 2018, says Chow. Many vanilla farmers had to start their crops from scratch and while other countries have tried to capitalize on the high prices and enter the vanilla trade, it can take years before they produce market-ready crops, says David Van der Walde, director of Aust & Hachmann Canada, a Quebec-based vanilla importer.

Author: Jonathan Forani
Publication: The Star
Published: 20 Sept 207
View article source here

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