Building on its recent association with SOARARY of Madagascar, Virginia Dare and its new partner have announced a new dual strategy to improve the sustainability of Madagascar’s vanilla market.
A primary objective is to enable farmers to properly cure their own green, or raw, vanilla such that they can earn the much needed extra revenue associated with this value added activity. To make this possible, the Virginia Dare–SOARARY partnership has already gifted the materials and provided the training necessary for proper curing to a group of roughly 150 growers. By enabling these farmers to cure their own beans, the partnership intends to ensure growers access to the international market where they can get higher prices than those paid within their own country. “Working toward access for Malagasy vanilla growers to the international markets is a great way to ensure fair trade and an idea whose time has come,” says Howard Smith, Jr., Virginia Dare’s president. “Access should put extra money in growers’ pockets which should result in a greater commitment, not just to the product itself, but to product quality.”
The second objective is to improve food security for Madagascar’s vanilla growing community. An innovative scheme sponsored by the partnership will guarantee participating farmers access to affordable rice, Madagascar’s staple food, during the annual shortage period. This access will help increase growers’ vanilla income by curtailing their practice of paying for otherwise unaffordable rice by pledging future vanilla production at prices below fair market value. Henry Todd, Jr., a Virginia Dare vice president overseeing the initiative commented, “Hungry communities can’t focus on anything other than addressing their hunger. In alleviating this problem we hope to increase community ability to focus on other longer term investments such as commitment to education, creation of small business and the formation of small vanilla export cooperatives.”