Vanilla Fever in Madagascar

South Africa’s Mail & Guardian details the problems of soaring vanilla prices in Madagascar. Vanilla is the orchid that we all love to eat, and the cost of vanilla beans has been rising for years. Droughts and cyclones have contributed to increases. But what might be a boon for the economy also brings a lot of danger. One farmer explains that “The higher the price of vanilla, the earlier in the year the robbers come to tear the pods off the vine.” Farmers are often robbed, and sometimes even killed for their crop.

As it’s grown more expensive, vanilla has become tied to other illicit activities as well. The beans are used for money laundering in the illegal rosewood trade, and vanilla farming contributes to deforestation. Speculators hoard beans to await higher prices. Read more about Madagascar’s problems in a separate article in The Guardian.

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