Home Institution

University of California - Los Angeles

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Madagascar: Ecology and Conservation


The objectives of my research were to understand how the vanilla exporting business has changed in Antalaha in recent years, to assess the impact of cash crops on people’s livelihoods, to examine the benefits and drawbacks associated with vanilla cultivation, and to explore the economic impact of the vanilla industry on the town of Antalaha and its inhabitants. Through my research, I wanted to understand how the fruit of an orchid becomes the flavoring of ice cream, to look at the many processes and people involved in the vanilla supply chain. I was also interested in getting to know how money exchanged hands and how and why vanilla gains in value as it is processed, and to see who in Antalaha really profits from the cultivation of this cash crop.

Thus my paper firsts presents an overview of the different players involved in the industry, who deal with vanilla as it passes from green pod to exportable product, and my research looks at the interactions between those involved with the vanilla supply chain at different stages. Next, I include an overview of the vanilla industry’s economic history and its cycles of prices that rise and crash, and provide an exploration of the industry’s current economic situation in Madagascar. I then present a discussion regarding the future of the industry, and point out potential ways to improve vanilla production. This section of the paper presents my recommendations alongside the goals laid out in the Madagascar Action Plan (the government’s document to direct the country’s future development), and I attempt to highlight the overlapping areas between the two.

The vanilla industry is in the process of undergoing significant changes, with global demand for vanilla appearing to be lessening and synthetic vanillin remaining a major competitor, so its future is unclear. Antalaha especially is producing less vanilla than in the recent past, due in part to the regularity in which it is devastated by cyclones, which has impacted the town’s economy. In light of these changes, my research is significant since it is important to understand how and why vanilla prices are changing, and if there is hope for the vanilla industry to remain profitable in Antalaha. Any potential to revitalize vanilla production will greatly benefit the SAVA region, and Madagascar as a whole, since vanilla is still a big player in the national economy.


Business | Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Economics | Labor Economics


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