In 2000, cyclones in Madagascar and Indonesia destroyed a third of vanilla vines and caused such a shortage in the supply of vanilla that world prices increased dramatically, triggering companies to switch to synthetic vanilla substitutes. The decreased demand from manufacturers for real vanilla plus the resurgence in production from devastated farmers attempting to re-enter the market has caused vanilla prices to fall 90% since 2003. Fair Trade vanilla was introduced in the U.S. in June of 2006 in attempts to stabilize this fluctuating market.
Fair Trade Vanilla Co-operative
DAKSHINA KANNADA VANILLA SMALL FARMERS’ ASSOCIATION
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This 98-member cooperative is located in the Dakshina Kannada district in the Western Ghats, a tropical mountain range in the South of India where farming is the main source of livelihood. The average family-owned farm is 3 hectares, with 1.5 hectares of vanilla. The land is intercropped with other spices to provide harvests year-round.
Since 2002, local farmers in the Dakshina Kannada area have been working with the Eco-Agri Research Foundation, which acts as a supporting body, managing the collection, processing and marketing the farmers’ fresh vanilla. This successful partnership has encouraged the farmers to form their own small farmers’ association to strengthen their businesses, increase their markets and contribute to the economic development of the community.
The vanilla, which has already been contracted Fair Trade to Ben & Jerry’s for flavoring in ice cream, will help to stabilize the prices for farmers. The increased income will help farmers pay off debts and improve health and education in their villages as well as strengthen their agricultural and commercial practices.
More about Vanilla:
- The U.S. consumes the most vanilla in the world, which is used as a powder or extract and as flavoring in baking goods, sodas, candies, ice cream, syrups, and perfumes.
- According to TransFair USA, over 90% of vanilla flavoring and fragrance is synthetic, which has decreased demand from vanilla farmers
- Vanilla is grown in Madagascar, Indonesia, the Comoros Islands, French Polynesia, Tonga, Uganda, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Guatemala and India
- Vanilla farmers usually receive as little as 8% of the traditional export selling price of cured beans.
- The Fair Trade minimum price for Green Bean Vanilla is between $4.30-$5.30 per kg and $42-$46 for Cured Vanilla
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