According to The Australian Financial Review today, the global price of vanilla beans has more than tripled in the past year as demand outstripped supply in part due to industry turmoil in Madagascar, one of world's top producers.
Wesley Meineke, owner of Queensland-based vanilla wholesaler Sunshine Vanilla, said the cost of importing vanilla beans had increased about fourfold over the past 12 months.
As a result, he had been forced to increase the price of the beans he sells to restaurants, retailers and manufacturers from about $80 a kilogram a year ago to $270.
Mr Meineke said his trade in the volatile product had roughly halved because of customers unwilling to pay the elevated price and opting for cheaper options like vanilla essence and extract.
George Gonthier, owner of Daintree Vanilla and Spice in Far North Queensland, is one of only three commercial vanilla growers in Australia.
He said demand for his products, and the prices he could charge, had jumped since global supply contracted.
"Our beans are a very high-demand product and we ran out of product in February," he said.
Mr Gonthier has sent products like vanilla tea and vanilla sugar to Japan since 2013, but does not export vanilla beans because of overwhelming demand from the local market.
Production in countries including China, Indonesia and Uganda has declined in recent years as a prolonged price slump pushed farmers to adopt more profitable crops.
Mr Gonthier said Australia had the capacity to become a bigger supplier of vanilla beans and partially fill the void left by falling global supply if the local industry was more efficient and less fragmented.
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