With vanilla prices already at historically high prices, Cyclone Enawo struck the heart of the vanilla growing region in Madagascar on March 7. As a category 4 cyclone, it brought devastation to the region and put into question the 2017 vanilla crop as well as a tremendous human toll.
With a 2017 crop that was promising on the vines, Enawo put the prospects of a bumper crop out of the question. The immediate impact was higher prices. It is also likely that vanilla bean quality may suffer as low-quality green, immature vanilla beans that were harvested after the storm will be immediately cured and brought to market. The Malagasy government is working to prevent early picking but it is hard to stop salvaging of beans at current price levels where even poor quality vanilla provides tremendous returns.
In the third year of increasing vanilla prices, vanilla buyers are looking not only to Madagascar but also to origins like Indonesia, Papua New Guinea , Uganda and emerging crops in India for increased production to bring prices down to more reasonable levels and improve availability. Relief from high prices will more likely come from a drop in demand as consumers switch from pure vanilla to other more cost effective alternatives.