Vanilla farming expands to the northeast as the Spices Board provides assistance. Vanilla farming used to only happen in the south, but now it has moved to the northeast.
A few farmers in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya have just started growing vanilla on about 10–15 hectares. D.M. Barman, the Deputy Director of the Regional Office of the Spices Board in Guwahati, says that some farmers in Assam are also trying out this crop.
This year, a farmer from Ranirgiri village, around 50 kilometres from Tura, Meghalaya, sold 360 kg of dried vanilla beans for ₹800 per kg. According to Barman, the Spices Board assists farmers with technical help and market connections.
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He claims that the Board initiated vanilla farming in north-east India decades ago. It gave free technical help and materials for planting vanilla to farmers in Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya. When the price of vanilla beans fell in due course, growers showed no interest in expanding their planting area.
At the same time, vanilla farming has a lot of potential in the North-East because of the climate and soil. He says that because vanilla is grown organically in the United States, it could be sold on international markets.
In the meantime, vanilla prices stayed the same, even though the recession slowed down demand on world markets. According to Joseph Sebastian, EcoSpice, Idukki, the current season would be over by December, and crop prices would be around $100 per kg for beans (cooking grades) and around $150 for the extraction grade.
However, industry sources claim that the global crisis has reduced consumption of ice cream and leisure meals, causing vanilla extract exports to fall to 30 tonnes in 2022 from 70 tonnes in 2021.
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Madagascar is responsible for 80% of the total production, while Uganda, Indonesia, and Tanzania are responsible for the rest. Due to government restrictions not to sell the crop below this level due to its quality, the price of Madagascar vanilla is on the higher side at $260.
According to the reports, this has caused the crop to be held up, prompting farmers to sneak the commodity out of the country and sell it at reduced prices.