This is the time of year when people spend their days relaxing on the beach or beside the pool, and nothing pairs better with the hot sun than cold ice cream.
But there's bad news for people who like to treat themselves to a cone or a cup of soft serve: prices for vanilla are expected to skyrocket worldwide, and the cost of your favorite treat will go up with them.
Bakers and fans of sweet treats might also notice their wallet getting lighter, and it could take years for prices to bottom out again.
This may be surprising, but vanilla - the plainest of the food flavors - is one of the rarest and most expensive spices on the planet.
Vanilla is just a pain to grow. The flavor comes from pods that grow in vanilla orchids, which only bloom once per year. Hand-pollinating the flowers and drying out the pods means it takes as long as 4 years to grow a batch.
So when Madagascar, which produces 80% of the world's vanilla, was hit by Cyclone Enawo last month, vanilla prices started rising steeply.
One ice cream store owner says the price for a bag of vanilla beans has jumped more than 400%, from $72 to $320. Another says he stockpiled vanilla extract when the crisis started, because otherwise he could never afford to keep his store open.
If there's one consolation about this vanilla shortage, it's that the sweets and treats in your grocery store probably won't be affected.
Most major food companies use synthetic vanilla flavoring in their products. Still, it wouldn't hurt to start stockpiling tubs of Häagen-Dazs now...just in case.
And if you do, be sure to top it with some delicious monkey butter!
[H/T: Boston Globe]
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