Holiday bakers, take note: Vanilla might be harder to get because of a deadly fungus attacking Madagascar’s vanilla crops.
The island off the coast of Africa produces 60 percent of the world’s vanilla, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Nearly 80 percent of the country’s plantations are affected.
It's bad news for Madagascar, too. Vanilla sales, primarily to the U.S. and Europe, typically yield hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Researchers say the fungus is a result of planting crops too close together, which spreads disease rapidly between plants. Replanting is an option, but because of vanilla’s five-year life cycle, it will take years to make up for the loss.
Better save enough of that gingerbread dough to last until 2013 — and hope Madagascar's farmers can sustain themselves until the next harvest.