Vanilla farming seems to have brought a flavour of success to a handful of farmers in Kerala at a time when prices of other plantation crops are moving southward.

Because of lower production, prices of dry vanilla beans is hovering between ₹22,000 and ₹30,000 a kg, depending on quality.

“It cannot be said that prices are declining, but there is a slight correction from last year’s higher levels,” Joseph Sebastain, a vanilla farmer in Thankamony in Idukki district said.

Higher returns from the crop had encouraged more farmers to take up vanilla cultivation where the number has gone up to 3,000 in regions spread across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Sebastain, who recently travelled to some growing countries, told BusinessLine that currently there are no issues connected with vanilla prices in India. However, countries such as Indonesia, Uganda, Madagascar have already started cultivating new crop, which would take two more years to get the yield. There could be a correction in prices by 2021 when the production from these countries hit the global market, he added.

According to him, the production in India has registered a 10 per cent growth, touching around 40 tonnes, thanks to a conducive climate prevailing in producing regions. However, there is no official data to substantiate production figures and the months of October, November and December are considered as the harvest season of vanilla. Majority of the farmers here are now looking at export market in a big way, as the top variety realising prices in the range between $475 and $490. Currently, green vanilla season is going on in India at a price tag in the range between ₹4,000 and ₹4,500 per kg, which is abnormally high. This has fetched an earning of ₹20 lakh per acre. It is the third year in a row such high prices for vanilla are prevailing and it is unlikely to sustain next year, said R Mahendran of ExpoVan and Indian Vanilla Initiative.

Farmers say vanilla is a labour-intensive crop and it requires manual pollination of flowers. This has forced majority to abstain from its cultivation because of the shortage of workers in the plantation sector. Besides, the price volatility is also posing a problem in taking the cultivation of the crop.