Jacob Sebastian no longer wants to invest in his vanilla plantation. He still has more than 1,000 vanilla plants intercropped in his half hectare (ha) rubber plantation in Kerala's Kottayam district. But this year he did not hand-pollinate these plants so he does not expect a crop. In a nearby plantation, P J Joseph uprooted 1,250 plants that grew on one-third of his 1.2 ha farm. Joseph is now planning to grow only rubber in this area. In adjoining Eranakulam district, Ibrahim, a small-time farmer, has removed all his vanilla plants from 0.8 ha of his coconut plantation.
The story repeats in other parts of Kerala as well. Farmers say the business of vanilla has let them down. The crop is highly labour-intensive and takes time to flower, the seed takes even longer to cure. It's literally a labour of love. Vanilla does not self pollinate. In nature, vanilla is only pollinated by the Mexican bee and humming birds.But these are found only in Mexico and all attempts to make them work in other regions have failed. Farmers have to