Frustratingly, the rewards of vanilla crops pose huge opportunities for Madagascans. Vanilla incomes are more than 10x those of average households(c). However, it is typically buyers, brokers and intermediaries who take the lion’s share of the profits(b). The farmers growing vanilla must use every resource they can, including their children, to maximise the value of their crops(g). Regardless of who’s making money at the moment, as it is such a volatile crop, the vanilla economy is in a short-cycled and constant state of boom and bust. When the price is high, everyone wants to farm it, theft increases and the quality reduces, reducing the price. Not only that, but buyers can’t afford to buy it and supply outstrips demand, reducing the price. When the price is low, everyone stops farming it, demand outstrips supply, and the price goes up(e).
Efforts are being made by Western economies and companies to stabilise the economy and encourage sustainable farming practices, but progress is slow. In fact, one such part of this drive is to give farmers stamps which enable them to code their beans. These markings deter thieves from stealing. It is also easier to match up thief with theft when there is a barcode linking the two(h).