Dispatches from IFE

Madagascar unrest raises interest in Indian vanilla

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vanilla

The political unrest in Madagascar, the world’s leading producer of vanilla, has highlighted the need for ingredients companies to diversify supply and eyes have turned to India as an alternative source.

Madagascar has witnessed the worst unrest it has seen in years with weeks of anti-government strikes and protests culminating in the resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana on Tuesday, and former DJ Andry Rajoelina appointed by the military in his place.

The French family firm Eurovanille, which has been sourcing vanilla from Madagascar for about 20 years, said that so far supply has not been affected.

Eurovanille, which exhibited at IFE09 (the International Food and Drink Event) in London this week, supplies vanilla pods, extracts and pastes.

However, in 2003 Eurovanille turned to India for supply, where it now has a partner, because it “needed a more stable source” ​for vanilla, according to Patrick Finn, spokesperson for Eurovanille,

He told FoodNavigator.com that until recently, India was not a significant producer of vanilla, which used to be grown only in the tropics.

But the company looked to India for security in terms of climate and politically because Madagascar was “vulnerable”​.

Finn said: “We set up our vanilla factory in Pollachi in the Tamil Nadu province in the south of India in 2003. We currently produce 40 per cent of our vanilla there.

“India is the second largest vanilla producer in the world, more or less on a par with Papua New Guinea and Mexico, but very far behind Madagascar.

“Indian vanilla is of the same variety (planifolia) as Madagascar so the aroma and taste are very similar.

“A difference in perception can be subjective but the Indian vanilla tends to provide a creamier flavour and also has stronger caramel notes than the Bourbon.”

He added that Bourbon vanilla is an appellation or a brand and only vanilla produced in Madagascar, Mauritius or Réunion Island is allowed to carry the Bourbon label.

Indian vanilla provides an alternative to Bourbon vanilla and is said to be a little bit cheaper.

Government backing

India has seen a quick rise to its current position in the vanilla market over recent years.

In 2005 India’s Department of Commerce announced that it would develop a long-term strategy for vanilla to increase its share in the domestic and international market. The government also emphasised the need for certification of natural or organic vanilla.

At the time India produced only five per cent of the world output of vanilla.

Meanwhile The Vanilla Growers’ Association of India has just sent samples of Indian vanilla to the University of New Jersey for aroma profile mapping, according to reports.

Dr D C Chowta, vice-president of the association, told The Hindu publication Business Line that 250 components put together form vanilla flavour.

He said: “This mapping will help us position Indian vanilla in the world market. We will come to know about the components of Indian vanilla that will help in distinguishing Indian vanilla from that of other countries.”

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