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  • Narrator: You might think of vanilla as basic.

  • The word is even used to mean boring, average, or basic.

  • Student: Why do we have to go all vanilla on this song?

  • See what we need is my chocolate thunder.

  • Narrator: But vanilla may not always be so run of the mill.

  • Vanilla prices have climbed so high

  • it's worth more by weight than silver,

  • and that high price tag could be bad news

  • for lovers of ice cream, yogurt, chocolate,

  • and even perfumes.

  • One reason vanilla has gotten so expensive is,

  • it's hard to grow.

  • Vanilla vines take two to four years to fully mature,

  • and their flowers only bloom for one day of the year.

  • In order for the plants to produce beans,

  • they have to be pollinated that day.

  • In most places where vanilla is grown,

  • it isn't a native plant,

  • and there aren't bugs or birds capable

  • of pollinating the flowers.

  • Vanilla is native to Mexico,

  • but deforestation there has greatly reduced

  • its natural habitat.

  • In Madagascar, where over 80% of vanilla is produced,

  • the flowers have to be pollinated by hand.

  • The pods need several months to cure after harvesting.

  • The whole process is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

  • But the record high price of vanilla

  • also has to do with changes in the vanilla market.

  • In the 1980s, cheaper artificial vanilla

  • overtook the market.

  • Vanilla farmers cut back production

  • because they weren't making enough money.

  • But around 2011, demand for real vanilla rose again.

  • Big companies were joining the all-natural trend,

  • pledging to eliminate artificial flavorings from their products,

  • but it's taken a while for the vanilla farmers

  • to get back in the game

  • and they don't all want to.

  • Growing vanilla is a stressful and volatile business

  • because there is such high demand,

  • vanilla beans are a target for theft.

  • After working hard to cultivate their crops

  • some farmers have their beans stolen.

  • As the stolen beans move up the supply chain,

  • they get mixed in with legally purchased beans

  • making it difficult for buyers to know

  • which are which.

  • To prevent theft,

  • farmers pick the beans before they're ripe

  • and unripe beans means lower quality vanilla.

  • Farmers also try to prevent theft

  • by branding their vanilla crops with a metal pronged brand.

  • That way buyers can identify what farm the vanilla came from.

  • Farmers also run the risk of having their crops destroyed by extreme weather events.

  • Cyclones are common in Madagascar

  • and climate change is increasing the frequency

  • and intensity of those storms.

  • If a cyclone were to wipe out vanilla crops next year,

  • it would take until at least 2022 for new plants

  • to start producing beans,

  • and farmers might not want to take that risk.

  • So the supply could continue to drop even further.

  • The once basic, boring vanilla

  • may wind up becoming a rare sought-after delicacy.

Narrator: You might think of vanilla as basic.

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B2 US vanilla theft madagascar high price stolen basic

Why Vanilla Is So Expensive

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    Samuel posted on 2018/10/15
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