There’s a global vanilla shortage

Is it time to think twice about that ice cream?

There's a shortage of vanilla, and increasing prices mean you might see the cost of your ice cream rise when summer finally arrives.

What it means: Vanilla is one of the world's most popular spices – it's in everything from chocolate, to perfume. But there's suddenly not enough to go round, and the price of buying it wholesale has risen to $500-$600 a kilo, 10 times more than a decade ago. Why? The Economist has done a great explainer on it, but here's our potted version...

Vanilla traditionally comes from Madagascar, and it was so popular the government 'fixed' the price high. But that meant when demand for vanilla increased in the 1980s, people started looking for cheaper sources: they looked to Indonesia, but that wasn't cheap enough for some of the big food companies, so they manufactured their own artificial alternative.

The Madagascan vanilla industry collapsed, and vanilla is such a hard crop to grow, and people got fed up of earning pittance for like twenty years, so they quit. But then around 2011 global tastes changed. People didn't want low-cost or artificial foods any more, they wanted high-quality, whole beans. They wanted to see little vanilla seeds in their vanilla ice cream. In 2015, Nestle said it would use all-natural ingredients by 2020, and demand for Madagascan vanilla soared. High demand + low supply = high prices.

Learn more about where food prices come from

Read the full story (The Economist)

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