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Supply Chain
Häagen-Dazs, General Mills Promote Sustainable Vanilla Farming in Madagascar

Häagen-Dazs has partnered with General Mills to invest $125,000 dollars over two years in Madagascar’s Sava region to encourage sustainable agriculture in one of the world’s most important vanilla production centers.

Häagen-Dazs has partnered with General Mills to invest $125,000 dollars over two years in Madagascar’s Sava region to encourage sustainable agriculture in one of the world’s most important vanilla production centers.

Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla, responsible for more than 80 percent of the world’s production. For a majority of the estimated 80,000 Malagasy farmers, the vanilla crop is one of their only sources of income. General Mills relies on the Sava region of Madagascar for a majority of the vanilla used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

The program will unite three global partners to help promote sustainable vanilla farming in Madagascar: General Mills will leverage its supply chain and agronomic knowledge; vanilla supplier Virginia Dare will offer its understanding of the vanilla market; and international humanitarian organization CARE will provide expertise in reducing poverty.

“At General Mills, our mission is Nourishing Lives,” explained Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills. “Working to improve the lives of smallholder farmers by helping them accrue a greater share of the benefit from the crops they produce will also help ensure a sustainable and quality supply of vanilla for the future.”

The initiative is part of a larger, more comprehensive sourcing plan being advanced by General Mills. In 2011, the company completed an extensive global assessment of the ingredients and materials it sources, developing an overall global sustainable sourcing model — vanilla is one of 10 ingredients General Mills has prioritized to source sustainably.

The program will provide training and education to several hundred smallholder vanilla farmers focused on producing a more sustainable and higher quality vanilla crop. The training will teach value-added production techniques, including yield improvement and vanilla curing. By adding value at the farm level, vanilla growers will be able to significantly increase their incomes, benefiting larger communities in the region.

General Mills has also worked to promote understanding of the vanilla plant to help benefit growers in Madagascar. The company is funding research at the University of California, Davis to map the vanilla genome, which will help lay the foundation for natural and conventional breeding improvements to increase yields, strengthen disease resistance and enhance flavor.

The action is one of several General Mills programs directed at benefiting smallholder farmers around the world, including farmers in Mexico, China and Africa.

Sustainable farming has been recognized as one of the 13 ways to cultivate a better food system in 2013. Agriculture can be the solution to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including unemployment, obesity, and climate change, if given the proper attention and funding, according to Food Tank, a food think tank.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant. @mikehower contributed.

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