Roughly 80% of the vanilla sold on the global market comes from Madagascar. Madagascan vanilla can be found in chocolate, cakes and ice-cream around the globe by some of the world’s biggest brands.
Yet, according to a new report by research and media centre Danwatch, the vanilla supply chain is keeping farmers in a cycle of exploitation, poverty and child labour. Because of the heavy workload involved in growing vanilla and the poor price that farmers receive for their pods, despite the fact that vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, means many farmers are forced to use child labor which complies on the already devastating reality of Malnutrition and child stunting in Madaga.
The companies that purchase the vanilla from the farmers will often give the farmers loans during the long wet months to help them through to harvest. The collectors fix the price and return after harvest to collect their debt and the high interest it has accrued, buying the pods far below market value. If farmers have a bad harvest or have their plants stolen, they can be forced to sell land, animals and possessions in an attempt to pay off this debt.
Accoring to a 2016 Guardian article:
“The Danwatch report claims that the plight of Madagascan farmers has been largely ignored by exporters and retailers profiting from the $192m (£152m) trade in Madagascan vanilla.
The International Labour Organisation estimates 20,000 children are working in the Madagascan vanilla trade, the majority of them in the Sava region. The country has ratified international child labour conventions and set a minimum working age of 15, but the ILO says there are 2 million children between the ages of five and 17 engaged in various forms of work on the island; nearly 9% of the total population.”
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