Skip to content

A New Crop Is Coming – And It Could Change Florida Agriculture Forever

The most popular flavor for consumers and one of the most valuable spices globally is looking to join Florida’s diverse agriculture industry.

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA — University of Florida (UF) researchers are on the verge of introducing vanilla production to Florida’s agriculture industry, which is already a $7.7 billion industry.

The United States is the largest importer of vanilla beans for various cooking uses, including dessert-type foods along with sauces. The cost of vanilla extract and vanilla-flavored items could be reduced if domestic vanilla production and growth takes off in Florida.


UF researchers touted how vanilla bean crop growth and production into vanilla extract is continuing to increase in value. They say that the U.S. is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in this industry.

“We calculate the United States could be the fifth largest vanilla producer globally with 140 to 670 acres devoted to this specialty crop,” said Xingbo Wu to

Wu is a plant breeder and geneticist at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center. “Our goal is to determine the best vanilla material and efficient production management of growing vanilla in southern Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and disseminate this information to all potential growers and guide the vanilla breeding projects.”

“Vanilla is a highly profitable crop with cured beans, worth $250 to $600 a kilogram [2.2 lbs],” said Wu. “With appropriate plant material and production guidance, we can maximize the return on investment in domesticated vanilla production.”

In an email correspondence with The Florida Standard, Wu said the economic impact – in terms of jobs and Florida’s global placement among producers – will be determined by the support of a federal grant.


“There are many exciting things about vanilla but we don’t know much about it,” Wu said. “It will certainly bring new jobs as every new industry does, we will rely on the economic studies to give us a number.”

While vanilla bean plant growth is best suited for South Florida, it could be grown in other parts if that environment is replicated.

“South Florida has the suitable environment for outdoor production, however, this crop can be grown anywhere in protected or indoor environment,” said Wu.

Currently, six growers are being assisted by UF and some are expected to begin production in the next three years.