Although vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world, the majority of the 80,000 smallholder farmers who produce vanilla in Madagascar experience food insecurity. This is caused by the fact they do not earn sufficient income to adequately provide food for themselves and their families throughout the year.
Much of the profits in the vanilla industry are distributed unevenly. The players at the top of the chain (e.g. companies and flavour houses) influence the prices and demand, and can therefore be seen as powerful stakeholders. Because of fluctuating prices of vanilla and the uneven profit distribution, farmers cannot predict how much money they will earn from their vanilla sales each year, leaving them in a vulnerable position. (Read our report Bittersweet Vanilla, on the issues in the vanilla industry.)