Vanilla is said to be the world's most popular flavour. As much as 40 per cent of the world's ice cream is vanilla flavoured. Its sweet, mildly fruity, spicy and alluring aroma is considered to be both sensual and calming. Aroma analysts call vanilla the smell of love. Others describe vanilla as good business because it sells millions of dollars worth of cakes, perfumes, cosmetics and many other things nice.
Vanilla is driving farmers of Kerala mad as well. But not with ecstasy. They are worried because this is the time they harvest pods of vanilla beans on their farms. But this is also the time when they do not get the price for their labour. The problem, they say, is that the ice cream we eat as vanilla is not vanilla, it is synthetic vanillin extracted from effluent waste of paper mills or even coal tar. But this synthetic product has taken over the vanilla industry. The farmers blame the government for promoting vanilla plantation but not securing the use of their plant in food. Industry says the synthetic fake is good enough. It is also cheap. Why then should they go for the original bean?
In all this, prices have crashed. Vanilla farmers are close to bankruptcy. arnab pratim dutta travels to the farms of Kerala to find exactly what is rotten in the business of this sweet smelling spice.