Madagascar, also named Red Island because of its soil colour, owes numerous natural resources. Vanilla, considered as Black Gold of Madagascar is one of them.
Madagascar vanilla mainly grows in the SAVA region (Sambava, Antalaha, Vohemar, Andapa), located in the North East part of the island. It represents an important part of the population income.
For many years, Madagascar is the main producers of vanilla in the world, they produce around 85% of the whole volume. As a consequence, Madagascar vanilla market strongly drives the worldwide market, and producers take advantage of this monopole when they can.
Madagascar vanilla requests a tough and long work before becoming the black product we know. Some producers do not hesitate to sacrifice their know-how to get a quicker and a better profitability.
That is why, for some years, vanilla quality is getting lower, vanillin content is weaker and there is a higher moisture content in the beans. Indeed, producers do not hesitate to vacuum-bag vanilla not completely dried and which will get an important risk of mould, fermentation and phenol presence (recognizable thanks to a medicine smell). If the price of vanilla can sometimes seems attractive for buyers, take care, there is a high chance you buy more water than raw material!
It is difficult to fight against those practises, the number of producers being too important. If the Madagascar vanilla quality continues to reduce and price to increase, buyers and mainly industrials will change their habits in favour of synthetic vanilla, which is cheaper. Consequences for the Madagascan population would be too important, vanilla beans representing the majority of their income.
Today, despite of the awareness of such deviances, Madagascan government did not put in place any quality control for exported vanilla beans.