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Madagascar avails great-quality Madagascar vanilla to the local and export markets. The major sources of Madagascar vanilla are family growers located across the country. The country’s vanilla is the most prized commodity you can find out there in the international market.
Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia ) is the most predominantly farmed in the country. It popularity, quality and value is highlighted by the fact that nearly 95% of the world’s genuine vanilla comes from the small-sized African nation. It is goes by another name Black Vanilla.
The primary sources of Madagascar vanilla include Sambava, Antalaha, Vohemar and Andapa situated in the northwest of Madagascar.
Globally, it ranked second to saffron as the most highly prized spice. In Madagascar it costs more than silver. There is a huge margin of US$50 separating the two. Madagascar vanilla is described as a spice which emanates from the pods of thick leafed plant. The flowering plant has leaves that are flat and so similar to those of the orchid.
History and export value
There are many accounts of the origin of vanilla. Its spice is generated from the bean fruit while in its dried form. A common myth is that is that its origin dates back to Mexico whereby a goddess married a human being and immediately after their death a flowering plant grew where they were buried. However, in another account it allegedly found its way to Madagascar after colonialists brought it to the Indian Ocean islands in 1819. It is the same way it was introduced to Mauritius before spreading to other African countries like Tanzania.
Vanilla prices have taken a sharp trajectory model in the past couple of years. They have skyrocketed eight times what they cost between the years 2012-2013. Back then one kilogram of vanilla went for $50. But by last year it had jumped to $400. Frequent hurricanes, droughts have been the major cause of the hiked prices keeping in mind that Madagascar 80%-85% of the entire global supply-because supplies in the world market have dwindled. At the moment the current prices stand at around $600 per kilo. The fact that the crop is so highly prized have also seen farmers struggle from keeping away thieves. Rampant violent theft cases of the crop have forced farmers to hire armed guards who come at a cost.
Vanilla serves multiple purposes. The uses range from manufacturing of perfumes, aromatherapy and flavoring of bakery products.
Vanilla also has several health values due to the numerous nutrients it constitutes. Each serving brings 4% potassium to the body that helps it balance electrolytes. Per serving, it provides the body with 3% of magnesium that is important in bone strengthening. Due to the low fats that it contains coupled with the 4% of carbohydrates-daily value it provides the body with energy. On the other hand the 1% calcium that comes with it consumption comes in handy in strengthening the teeth enamel. Vanilla calories count stands at 288.
Madagascar vanilla is provided to the export market in various forms. They include:
- Ground – It is usually widely used as a spice. It is the ground form of vanilla.
- Whole natural vanilla- This is the main exported form of Madagascar vanilla. Entails trading vanilla in pods or beans.
- Vanilla extract- Also sold as a flavor commonly used in the food or fragrance manufacturing industry.
Growth of vanilla
Madagascar vanilla is largely farmed by small holder farmers in fields of less than 2 acres. The family growers prioritize the use of farmyard manure to improve their yields. They keep away from the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemical sprays. This is due to the emphasis of availing organically produced vanilla in the export and local markets. Vanilla involves a lot of work. It is so difficult to cultivate vanilla and that is the reason not just any person out there grows the plant. The plant takes up to two, three or four years to mature. Their flowers open once in a year and the farmers pollinate the by hand. In northern all the way to the central Madagascar, harvests last from May to August.
Harvesting, packing, transportation and storage
Nine months after pollination, skilled workers pick the green beans while they are still ripe. This ensures the vanilla content is at optimum levels. They also pick pods with partially yellowed tips.
The workers conduct an exercise whereby they gently and singly detach the pods from their stalks. The beans are placed in baskets, placed under the shade and a week later the workers return to pick all pods that were not mature during the first harvest.
Curing and grading is done the same day of harvesting with vanilla in grade one featuring beans with highest margin of vanillin spice. They measure 15 centimeters in length while those in second grade are between 10-15 centimeters. The third grade vanilla beans have a maximum length of 10 centimeters and are often set aside for local use.
Curing process begins with washing the vanilla beans in pure clean water. The ‘killing’ phase follows whereby they are soaked for 2-5 minutes in hot water at 70 degrees Celsius. The next phase is the ‘sweating’ stage which entails placing wet vanilla beans in wooden crates fitted with a blanket interior. The beans remain there for the next two days under temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius until they turn into a golden brown hue. They release a pleasant scent.
The final stage involves drying Madagascar vanilla in the hot sun for three hours each day. They are placed over a dark blanket that helps them absorb moisture. Two weeks later, their aroma usually is magnified; the color by then has turned glossy brown and temperatures reduced by 35 percent. To induce better changes, the beans are dried at saturation levels of 70 percent and temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius.
Madagascar vanilla beans are packed in bundles weighing 150 grams. The dried beans are also packed in bunches of 250 grams which are tied with a natural fiber. They are placed in metallic boxes or wooden crates. The boxes are fitted with wax paper linings. Their purpose is to preserve the vanilla beans in their natural aromatic state for not less than 60 days. Labels indicating the source, weight, cargo destination and name are placed on the boxes.
Storage conditions are maintained at 5 degrees Celsius. Similar conditions are observed during the transportation of Madagascar vanilla to the Ivato International airport.
Madagascar vanilla reaches clients at any destination across the world 1-2 days after cargo dispatch. If you are seeking for the highest ranking vanilla globally, then Madagascar is the source to look at. Farming of vanilla using Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) has ensured Madagascar vanilla meets international standards each passing year. Make your order!
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