A Taoyuan research facility has refined its vanilla bean processing technique to increase the vanillin content of domestically grown vanilla to 3.5 percent — higher than the international standard of 1.6 to 2.4 percent, online news outlet AgriHarvest reported on Sept. 19.
Vanilla requires hand pollination, as well as a four-to-six month curing period that involves four stages: killing, sweating, drying and conditioning, the report said.
As a result, natural vanilla is the second-most expensive spice in the world, behind only saffron, it said.
In the past few years, climate change has caused the price of vanilla to soar, sources said, adding that the main producers of vanilla include Madagascar, Indonesia and Mexico.
The Council of Agriculture’s Taoyuan District Agricultural Research and Extension Station imported foreign species of vanilla in 2007, and growers adopted traditional, foreign sweating and drying techniques, the report said.
After five years of research the station has developed what it calls a “vanilla sweating machine” that can control the sweating process and increase the vanillin content to twice that of imported vanilla, it said.
The station is planning to transfer the technology to domestic businesses to encourage the development of locally produced vanilla products, according to the council’s Web site.
The station is planning to apply for a valuation of its technology toward the end of the year, the report said, citing Yeh Chih-hsin (葉志新), an associate researcher at the station.
The technology cannot be transferred until a review by the council’s agricultural intellectual property rights review committee is complete, he said.
The retail price of domestic vanilla is NT$30,000 to NT$60,000 per kilogram, and there are 11 hectares of vanilla plantations in Taiwan, the report said.
The plantations could be expected to produce 4,000kg to 5,000kg of vanilla per year, it added.
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