Racketeers stealing vanilla from Madagascan farmers increase fraud and adulteration risks

supply chain risk
As part our commitment to provide updates for readers horizon scanning toolkits we are pulled back to Vanilla, and in particular Madagascan vanilla, by a reported 130% (Grocer Magazine 02/04/2016) year on year spike in the price of vanilla.
This has been brought about due to the impact of a smaller than average yield from Madagascar exacerbated by an increase in sub standard product and growing demand. Poor harvests in 2013 and 2015 are being blamed. The first reports of lower production last year led to some farmers harvesting their crop prematurely, worried it could be stolen by racketeers, which had a negative impact on quality.
As major global buyers became aware of the scarcity many increased their stocks aggravating the shortage while others have turned instead to artificial vanilla essence.
This example presents a whole host of vulnerability assessment risks  and supply chain risks to be considered.
The first thing I would recommend all food and drink businesses do is search their raw material specifications and finished product specifications for vanilla. Don’t forget to drill down into compound ingredients.
If vanilla is in your supply chain consider the following:
There are clear economic factors at play which may make adulteration or substitution more attractive.
You then need to look at ease of access to the raw materials containing vanilla in your supply chain.
“Less steps are good, more steps are bad”
If there are still concerns you need to look at the sophistication of routine testing to identify adulterants. A good place to start might be ISO 5565-2:1999 Vanilla [Vanilla fragrans (Salisbury) Ames] — Part 2: Test methods
Finally you need to look at the nature of the raw material that you are sourcing, if you are sourcing vanilla powder as against vanilla pod there will be a higher risk of adulteration or substitution.
This Grocer article also throws up a number of other risks that many may not have considered.

  • Quality may be poorer due to the farmers harvesting their crop prematurely, therefore I would advise you to look carefully at your raw material specifications and complete some QA checks to ensure your specifications are being complied with.
  • I was not aware that racketeers were active stealing vanilla from farmers, these racketeers are not going to be bothered about food safety.

As I sit down to my premium vanilla ice-cream this week-end containing Madagascan Vanilla I will be looking at it from a very different perspective.