Vanilla & Spices of PNG

Vanilla, Spices & Herbs

 

 
Vanilla growers in PNG.

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Vanilla is the name given to a genus of orchids that grow in tropical climates and to the flavor extract obtained from the fruit pods or beans of several orchid species. The best and most important commercial extract is obtained from Vanilla fragrans, also known as Vanilla planifolia.

Vanilla beans produced commercially are pollinated by hand with a wooden needle. Harvested before they  are ripe, the golden-green beans are cured through alternating exposure to moist and dry heat, a process that produces the characteristic flavor and aroma. Curing continues for 10 to 20 days, after which the beans are bundled for drying and development of the full aroma. This curing and drying process requires four to six months. The resulting bean is wrinkled and chocolate colored.  

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The flavor and odor of the extract comes partially from a white crystal vanillin, which develops during the curing process. Vanilla beans, extracts, tinctures (alcoholic extracts), and resinoid (hydrocarbon solvent extracts) are the foremost food flavors for ice cream, puddings, cakes, chocolates, baked goods, syrups, candies, liqueurs, tobacco, and soft drinks. Vanilla tincture is also used in perfumes.

Tahitian vanilla, a reddish-brown vanilla bean derived from Vanilla tahitensis, is cultivated in the South Pacific and is used mostly in the perfume industry. Vanillon (West Indian or Guadeloupian vanilla), derived from Vanilla pompona, has a cherry like odor, from heliotropin. It is used to flavor tobacco, soaps, perfumes, medicines, and liqueurs and is sometimes blended with true vanilla.

Artificial vanilla extract, or vanillin, is produced from eugenol (derived from clove-stem oil) or acid hydrolysis of lignin (wood) and is used as a compound mixed with real vanilla.

Back    MARKETS

Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice (after saffron) and the spice most subject to competition from imperfect substitutes (low-cost artificial flavorings). The aggregate global demand for real vanilla is estimated at 2,000 MTs per year, primarily for high-quality vanilla flavoring. Between 1965 and 1989, world consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2 percent. Between 1980 and 1989, demand expanded rapidly particularly in the United States, where it grew at 7 percent a year in volume. In Europe, the rate of consumption was more modest: 2-3 percent. Highest consumption per capita is found in Denmark (4.57 grams), the United States (3.85 grams), France (2.54 grams), and Canada (1.00 grams). Synthetic vanillin accounts for more than 90 percent of the U.S. vanilla flavoring market and about 50 percent of the French market (the lowest national share). One ounce of artificially produced vanillin has roughly the same flavoring power as a gallon of natural vanilla extract. Synthetic vanillin costs one-hundredth the price of the natural product and not only substitutes for vanilla but also supplements adulterated vanilla extracts. Despite the strong competition from synthetic vanilla, a number of factors have strengthened the demand for vanilla beans during the past decade: increased health awareness and preference for natural products; escalating consumer demand for processed foods, which use new flavors and spices; and an explosion in popularity of gourmet ice creams, which tend to use pure natural flavors exclusively. In major markets the United States and Europe vanilla is the only spice that benefits from a Standard of Identity, which helps shield vanilla beans from competition from substitutes.

From 1991 to 1993, the United States, France, and Germany accounted for 80 percent of world imports of vanilla beans, the United States absorbing 50-60 percent, and France and Germany between 10 and 15 percent each (Table 4). These three countries were also major re-exporters of both vanilla beans and processed vanilla products. Germany consumed only 30-40 percent of its imported beans, and its re-exports were by far the most significant, reaching approximately 180-250 MTs per year in the early 1990s. France's annual re-exports were 30-50 percent of imports (70-120 MTs), and U.S. re-exports were 60-80 MTs annually (4-6 percent of imports).

PNG Update

There is current growing interest in the production of alternative crops including spice and other aromatic crops such as chillies, cardamon, pepper, ginger, turmeric nutmeg, mace, pyrethrum and vanilla.  These crops, particularly vanilla provide the opportunity to expand and diversify the cash crop base of handsome economic returns.

The continued falling prices of the traditional export tree crops since the late eighties have given rise to the interest to develop and diversify the cash crop system in PNG.  An estimated 26,000 farmers are producing alternative crops dominated by vanilla, chillies, and cardamon in various localities in the country.

Vanilla production currently has the biggest spice of the market of all the spice or the alternate crops in the country.  The leading provinces are East Sepik, Manus, Madang, Morobe and East New Britain.  Two main varieties are grown in the country, Vanilla fragrance and Vanilla tahitensis. Good processing at a central processing unit is essential to secure product quality for overseas markets.  The future of the vanilla industry looks very promising largely due to the discovery of carcinogenic substances in the substitute artificial vanilla essence.  Returns to land can be very high exceeding K10,000.00 per hectare for good quality vanilla.

Current statistics indicate that total acreage in production amounts to 912.52 hectares with 8,952 farmers capable of producing 364,836 kg of vanilla worth K92.52 million annually at world market price.


 

Back    Chilli

Chilli yields through the 1970s and until 1982 were of high quality with production averaging over 200 tones per year.  However, production has dropped dramatically since 1981 to 1986 due to a combination of factors such as inefficient marketing services, poor export quality and loss of product reputation overseas.

Current indications are that there are 1294 farmers who are involved in cultivating 205.5 hectares and producing about 419,930 kg of chilli worth K839,000.00 annually at world market price.  Further promotional drive is required to expose the crops economic potential among the farming community.

Back    Cardamon

Cardamon production expanded very rapidly in the seventies in response to high prices until the mid eighties when the prices slumped.  Large areas were planted in parts of the country particularly in Madang and Simbu Provinces as a result of off shore investment.  However, since 1987 production has declined as a result of declined smallholder interest.

Approximately 205.4 hectares is currently under production by 663 farmers producing approximately 246,480kg of cardamon worth K793,440 annually.  The crop deserves further promotional drive to encourage more farmer participation in this industry.

Back    Pepper

Pepper is a potential alternate cash crop but its failure is attributed to poor extension services, high labour requirements coupled with very low prices and poor market access.  Export prices remain constantly low and amount of effort needed to cultivate pepper has not changed.  Over the years prior to  and after the country's independence.  The industry has remained stagnant and dormant due to lack of information on the part of the Government.

Back    Ginger

Ginger is produced in all area so the country.  Varieties vary from those that are grown at the high altitude to those that are grown at the low altitude.  Though it has potential as an alternate export crop current production is for local consumption and domestic markets only.  Production figures are sketchy at this stage.

Back    Turmeric

Turmeric is grown in East New Britain for export.  It is used mainly as a food colorant in sauces and curry powder.  Its distinct aroma and flavour mean that is also a spice crop.  Under irrigation, yields of 20,000 to 35,000 kg per hectare have been possible.  It has been reported that turmeric grown at higher altitude have better quality and yield.  If PNG is going to make an inroads to the market, turmeric exporters will have to concentrate very heavily on quality and price competitiveness.

Back    Nutmeg and Mace

Nutmeg and Mace are produced from the Nutmeg tree.  Mace usually amounts to about quarter to an eight of the weight of the nutmeg.  Over supply at the world market has resulted in price falls from US$5,600.00 per tonne of nutmeg in 1987 to US$ 1,089.00 per tonne in 1992.  Milne Bay and New Ireland Provinces are suitable areas for gradual expansion of the industry.  Superior trees are multiplied by marcoting, and trials with grafting are in progress at NARI, Kerevat Station.

Back    Pyrethrum

Pyrethrum is the oldest established alternative cash crop in the country but export earnings have never exceeded K1 million.  Production has become erratic in recent years and has decline substantially since 1986.  The Kagamuga factory processes pyrethrum flowers and exports them as crude oleoresin pyrethrum extract to overseas refiners.  The factory was operating below its capacity due to shortage of supply.  A dried flower throughput of 420 tonnes is required annually to keep the factory in operation.  A need to revive this dormant industry is of utmost importance if there is to be an inroad in the industry.

Back    General Policies for all SpicesTo promote suitable spice crops development in PNG to feed the local as well as the export markets, thus providing other viable alternatives to the main tree crop industries that are now facing lower prices year in year out.

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