Vanilla is currently more expensive than silver.
Recent worldwide food shortages have caused a panic with home cooks—like the soul-wrenching chocolate shortage that has caused some to seek out alternative sweet treats. But the latest news regarding one of the world's most ubiquitous flavors has us running for the nearest grocery store ASAP.
Vanilla is at an all-time low because the world's largest vanilla producer, Madagascar, has reportedly failed to meet crop expectations, The Economist reports. Currently, vanilla is fetching upwards of $600 per kilo—about $60 more than the price of precious silver. The cost of vanilla is about 10 times what it used to cost just a few years ago.
The Daily Mail writes that the lack of vanilla, in addition to its sky-high cost, is driving brands to raise prices on many of our favorite grocery store finds—Nestle has already implemented a 2.5 percent increase on its vanilla ice cream thanks to early reports of another shortage.
And it’s not just the extract that’ll be affected—the price of "spent" vanilla specks (leftover vanilla beans ground together) is now $150 per kilo. Manufacturers who use vanilla leftovers alongside artificial flavouring to label their product as "natural" will have to raise prices to bridge the gap, the Daily Mail reports.
This isn't the first time we've had a vanilla shortage, either: Everyone's love of "natural" products previously pushed conglomerates like Unilever to use real vanilla in many of their products. NPR covered the first wave of vanilla scarcity last year, and explained the perfect storm that led to the global issue.
Vanilla is one of the most complicated foods to grow, as it requires workers to manually pollinate the vanilla flower with a small applicator. Nearly 80 percent of the world's vanilla is grown in Madagascar, but vanilla comes from the seed of an orchid that’s naturally found in Mexico.
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If you add the past year's volatile weather to the mix and the fact that it takes upwards of five years for vanilla orchids to produce seed pods, you'll understand why everyone is nervous.
We'll have to wait to see just how bad this year's shortage is when Madagascar growers start their harvest in June. Until then, you might want to grab a few bottles of extract just in case.