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India gives boost to vanilla farmers

By Clarisse Douaud , 03-Oct-2007

The Indian ministry of commerce is taking steps to help its vanilla farmers following a dip in world demand for the natural flavour.

The Economic Times of India reported October 2 that the department announced it is requesting the country's health ministry insist on mandatory labeling of synthetic vanilla as it occurs in the US and Europe.

 

 

 

The market for vanilla beans has taken a hit in recent years following price hikes that came on the back of a dip in production in one of the main producing countries for the natural flavour, Madagascar.

 

 

 

In 2000, a cyclone in Madagascar - which is said to currently supply 70 per cent of the market - wiped out crops, the effect of which was compounded by a political crisis two years later.

 

 

 

The upshot was that many food companies switched to synthetic vanillin.

 

 

 

Current world demand for natural vanilla is somewhere around 40 metric tons per year, while global demand for synthetic vanillin stands at about 16,000 tons a year - costing one-hundredth of the price of its natural counterpart.

 

 

 

It both substitutes for vanilla and is a filler for adulterated vanilla extracts.

 

 

 

According to the Indian ministry of commerce, the country supplies just two per cent of the global natural vanilla industry. Union minister for commerce, Jairam Ramesh, told reporters the Indian government is looking to promote domestic consumption of natural vanilla so as to bolster the industry in light of its small contribution on the global scale. The ministry particularly foresees boosting supply to the country's ice-cream industry.

 

 

 

At the same time, the Indian Spices Board is looking to gain the approval of the finance ministry in order to subsidize ice-cream manufacturers to use natural vanilla. As part of this plan, the Board would funnel 50m Indian Rupees (€0.9m) per year over a three-year period.

 

 

 

The Economic Times reports the country's ice-cream manufacturers are reluctant to use natural vanilla because of cost constraints.

 

 

 

The government has stepped in to help farmers who have become too reliant on the crop and did not diversify - despite the Spice Board's promulgation of multi-crop farming -encouraged by the price hike in vanilla following the events in Madagascar.

 

 

 

The newspaper reports that 50,000 farmers - the majority operating in the states of Kerala and Karnataka - cultivate vanilla across 5,000 hectares.

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