The Vanilla Shortage on the Horizon

vanilla-shutterstock_281680811.jpgVanilla often gets a bad rap as the most boring flavor, but ice cream connoisseurs know that it’s still an irreplaceable necessity in the vast majority of varieties. This makes the news even more troubling that a vanilla shortage is driving supply down and prices up just in time for the warm weather.

The shortage has been caused by a particularly bad harvest months ago in Madagascar, the world’s largest producer of the beans. Since harvesting and curing vanilla pods is a process that takes several months, this shortage has been on the horizon for awhile, and prices have been climbing steadily. They’re now at near-record highs of $205 per kilogram, up from $85 last year and $20 in 2011. Apparently the process has become circular, with farmers picking beans earlier and lowering the overall quality of the supply.

These price fluctuations in crops are not new, and so far the 2016 crop looks to be doing better (so it’s unlikely we’ll have to hunker down for several vanilla-free years). The larger long term problems may be in coffee and cocoa, which are so far affected more negatively by climate change. The vanilla shortage of 2015 will hopefully just serve as an important reminder that ice cream’s most-maligned flavor is also one of the most important.

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