Commodities analysts Mintec have moved to play down concerns over a potential spike in global vanilla prices.

Reports this week have suggested that a shortage of vanilla in Mexico has led to bulk-buying in the world's largest producing region, Madagascar, potentially putting prices at risk of soaring.

Nick Peksa, business development director at market analysts Mintec, told just-food today (4 April), that Mexico is currently experiencing a shortage of vanilla, while Asia is experiencing "bad crops". The two regions, however, account for only a small proportion of global vanilla production.

Madagascar is the number one producer of the spice, accounting for around 80% of the world market at 2,000 tonnes per annum. In contrast, Mexico produces around 50 tonnes, which has since slid to five tonnes as a result of lower yields than normal.

This has reportedly led to a surge in bulk sales of black vanilla from Madagascar amid fears of imminent price rises, with international commodity traders thought to be stocking up on the unaffected crop from Madagascar.

"I would say that the market for vanilla is finely poised and if anything bad happens it could rocket. If any hurricane or civil unrest happens then there will be bigger movements, not as big as 2003, but it could double the price," Peksa said.

However, he added: "At the moment [Madagascar] stocks have been running down and there has been a little bit more down. The farmers aren't making money on it... so they're just not bothering to pollinate the vines and are planting coffee and putting their attention on those things until the market picks up. At the moment it is nicely balanced."

Food grade vanilla - known as black vanilla because of the colour of its dried pods - is grown in only a small handful of countries. It is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron due to it being so labour intensive.