Vanilla Markets 2014/15 January 22, 2015

Vanilla is produced in Madagascar, Indonesia and various South Pacific islands and it is a vital ingredient in many flavours and fragrances, particularly in the beverage industry. Although overshadowed in volume by synthetic alternatives it still remains an important ingredient in today’s markets.

Madagascar and Indonesia account for about 70% of today’s global production of vanilla although India and PNG also offer their own varieties, which have found niche markets. Madagascar is the industry benchmark and a premium product.

Referencing the last collected data from known sources you can rank the biggest producing countries as shown in the Table, with Indonesia significantly increasing output over the past decade (although more recently this is said to have declined). [UN Food & Agriculture Organization]

Rank Country Production (MT)
1 Madagascar 3,500
2 Indonesia 3,400
3 China 1,350
4 Papua New Guinea 400
5 Mexico 390
6 Turkey 290
7 Tonga 202
8 Uganda 170
9 French Polynesia 60
10 Comoros 42


The production of vanilla has a long history dating back to Aztecs using vanilla grown in central America to flavour their cocoa long before it was discovered in today’s world. The French and the Dutch took particular liking to vanilla as a flavouring and many plantations started in French and Dutch colonies around the world, giving places like Madagascar its 200-year heritage to this popular plant.

In more recent times, the plight of Madagascan communities has been well documented due to the lack of demand from the market, resulting in the fall in price for natural vanilla. Thankfully with more ‘Fair Trade’ projects and greater awareness by end-users and more tendencies towards ‘sustainable’ products many communities have recovered and are returning to less desperate times.

Here is a basic overview of the 2014 conditions as we look towards this year’s major harvest around June (2015)


Vanilla planifolia – Harvest Period Jun – July

2014 started with a shortage, as there was no carryover from the previous year’s harvest. That coupled with other producing areas also underachieving in recent years meant a difficult start to the year. However, things improved notably with Madagascar returning to much higher production levels not seen since 2010 by the end of the June/July season. It was estimated almost 2,000 tons of good quality vanilla beans were made available for export markets.

The supply and demand balance has remained stable and comfortable for all involved during 2014. Growing export markets have kept prices high and with good vanillin levels in last year’s crop, many end-users covered for 2 years rather than the traditional 1 year.

That could prove a shrewd move by some as early analysis suggests some difficulties ahead in 2015. Referencing a number of farmers who coves a variety of growing areas it appears the early flower buds seem to be much fewer than usual, some saying as little as 20% flowering compared to the previous year. Furthermore some farmers are now turning their attention to other products after too many years of suffering from flowers not being fertilized. These factors could lead to a reduction in good quality; exportable vanilla beans this year, ensuring prices remain firm. It is hoped that these cycles do not inflict longer-term damage to the recovering vanilla communities.


Vanilla planifolia – Harvest Period Jan-Feb | Jun-July

Today, vanilla is grown in the western, eastern and central regions of Uganda and the industry structure is composed of over 17,000 family based growers, who on average cultivate 0.1 ha of vanilla (only 5% of growers cultivate more than 0.8 ha), and produce 60 – 70 kg of green beans each (This is equal to 12 – 15 kg of cured beans). It is thought there are over 5,000 green bean collectors involved in the local market with approximately 10 processors and exporters.

Uganda has two main crops, the first crop being now (January to February) which last year yielded around 120MT of vanilla beans, whilst the second smaller crop in June and July resulted in a production of 50MT. These figures can be a little distorted as around 40MT is thought to derive from neighbouring Tanzania. Separating the two countries output can be difficult as many of the same processors and exporters are involved and the two countries produce the same species with very similar organoleptic properties.

Signs for this season’s crop remain positive and there is no real signs of any problems to this year’s supplies.


Vanilla planifolia – Harvest Period June

Exports remain flat as farmers wait for better market conditions to re-enter this market. Whether it will ever come no one knows but it’s estimated that Indonesia’s 2014 exports were still significant, but verifying the exact numbers is difficult.

Exports were believed to be under 100 MT. There are also significant stocks in Indonesia being held for better market prices thought to be in excess of another 100 MT. Indonesian qualities are considered poor in the global market.

Papua New Guinea (PNG)                                                

Vanilla tahitensis  –  Harvest Period May-June

The PNG quality has a different flavour profile from the plantifolia variety, giving it more limitations for applications across the food and beverage markets.

 Recent production has been consistent and it is thought that 2015 will yield similar volumes

This table shows other interesting historical production volumes for vanilla around the world.

Production (MT)



































With Madagascar now more settled and the world aware of the delicate balance of market prices ensuring future supplies we can move forward with confidence that this wonderful flavouring will be with us for many more years.