29 July 1998
India plots vanilla lead

INDIA plans to become one of the worlds largest producers of natural vanilla.

The Government has given the Spices Board the mandate to promote cultivation of the high-value spice in the three southern India states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

There was almost no vanilla cultivation taking place six years ago. Today the tropical orchid is grown over nearly 700ha (1,729 acres) and Karnataka grows 70% of Indias total crop. The Spices Boards target is to have at least 1,000ha (2,470 acres) under vanilla by 2000.

If there were productivity of 330kg of beans a hectare, the total Indian production of vanilla in 10 years could be 330 tonnes. This would make India the third-largest producer after Madagascar and Indonesia. World production of vanilla is currently 3,000 tonnes.

India is currently dependent on imported synthetic vanilla. The Board is offering a comprehensive package to growers to increase production covering the supply of tissue culture plantlets, know-how for vanilla cultivation and farm-level curing of beans.

The vanilla orchid takes three years to come to the flowering stage and another two years to produce vanilla to its full potential. It also requires hand pollination and an elaborate process of bean curing.

  • Financial Times 29/07/98 page 34