Vanilla Business in Madagascar
MUST Vanilla Trading Inc.
In Madagascar there exists a conspicuous difference between what is paid to farmers and curers, and the price importers charge customers. Pricing is not sustainable based on wages in Madagascar, leading to an incredibly volatile market. These low wages are having directly adverse effects: farmers, whose families have specialized in vanilla cultivation for generations, are simply abandoning vanilla for other more lucrative crops. Others are picking beans far too early in the season, which inevitably yields a product that is simply not of a viable quality, often to the point where it is no longer a usable commodity. We in the vanilla community must invest in Madagascar's farmers and pay a significantly higher, and understandably, more reasonable and fair price per kg of green vanilla beans. We must also convey to the farmers that we will pay them a sustainable amount per kg on a long-term basis; this is to say that the farmers will be able to rely on and trust in the fact that this higher and more sustainable price of vanilla beans will (relatively speaking, of course) no longer be so unjustifiably volatile. Additionally, it must be made clear that later cultivation of beans is in the best interests of the farmers, and that beans should remain on the vines as long as necessary to produce top-quality vanilla beans. Vacuum packaging should be eliminated at all stages of curing as it always leads to a lowering of quality.
Megan Merrifield graduated from Western Michigan University summe cum laude, with a concentration in International Business and French. She worked as a Territory Manager for Hormel Foods in Seattle for 2 years before moving to Madagascar with her husband; while in Madagascar she worked in the Sava region with vanilla growers, where she lived for 10 years. Her organization is unique in that it is Madagascar-based, curing beans and selling directly to customers without the use of an intermediary.