In early September 2008, Haiti was hit by two hurricanes causing widespread flooding and landslides. The main vetivert producing area was hit badly. Haitian vetivert is superior to that produced by either Java or Sumatra. Being much lighter in colour and having a more delicate aroma makes it more suitable in fine perfumery work as a quality fixative. The landslides had already caused prices to rise to such an extent that it was more expensive than vetivert Bourbon, which remains the finest quality. The recent earthquake will effectively halt supplies for a considerable time. Companies which use Haitian vetivert in their products will either need find an alternative or re-formulate. Long term availability and price stability of raw materials are major factors to be considered when formulating products. We can expect prices of vetivert to start moving upwards shoot upwards once current stocks have been used up.
Amyris and vetivert are the most important aromatic crops to Haiti but smaller quantities of other aromatics are also produced, notably frangipani and gardenia. We had not so long ago taken delivery of some stunning frangipani from Haiti (referred to in earlier blog). This morning I was talking to a French colleague and he quoted figures that were double what we paid for our last shipment from Haiti. We still have stock but replacement of similar quality at a reasonable price may well be difficult.
The supply of gardenia from Haiti is restricted as it is produced under contract for a company that consume the entire production. We get our gardenia from China and again we have fair stock so in the short to medium term we will not be affected but prices may well move upwards before we re-stock.
The situation in Haiti is tragic and the irony of such a poor country producing raw materials for top-drawer perfumery is not lost on me. A line from a song comes to mind – ‘old black Joes still picking cotton for your ribbon and bows’. Compassion and gratitude are both needed to maintain a healthy relationship with this reality. I recently found out that if we have access to clean running water of drinkable quality that that puts us in the top 5% of people on this planet. If we have a home and a regular income too we are in the top 1%. Perhaps we should complain a little less?