Is A Chocolate Deficit On The Horizon?

| by Jared Keever

There may be a chocolate shortage looming on the horizon. That is the opinion of two industry-leading chocolate manufacturers. 

The Washington Post reports Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut Group and Mars, Inc. both recently sounded the alarm. 

The reason is simple: Farmers are producing less cocoa than the manufacturers need in order to satisfy the demand for the tasty stuff. 

The experts call it a “chocolate deficit,” and some say we are in the midst of the worst such deficit the world has seen in half a century. The problem, though, is that this deficit is expected to grow. 

Signals of the coming problem began to surface in 2012. Since that time, prices on cocoa have risen about 60 percent. The steep increase caused chocolate giant, Hershey’s, to raise prices on its products in July, according to an article from Quartz. They were the first, but others soon followed, and more are expected. 

The largest problem is reportedly a lengthy spell of dry weather in West Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced. Another problem is the spread of a fungal disease that attacks cocoa crops and is estimated to have not only wiped out 30 to 40 percent of the supply, but has caused some farmers to transition to more profitable and easier to grow crops, like corn. 

And then there is China, whose growing economy has begun demanding chocolate at rates never before seen.

All of that adds up to a chocolate deficit that, by 2020, could be as high as 1 million metric tons, according to predictions in an article from The Independent. Some speculate the deficit could be 2 million metric tons by 2030. 

And some say the world should have seen this coming. 

In 2010, John Mason of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council, said that “in 20 years, chocolate will be like caviar. … It will become so rare and expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.”

But there are signs that the market, and science, are rushing to fill the void left by the deficit. There are reports that scientists are working on developing trees capable of producing seven times the amount of cocoa pods as conventional trees. But some speculate the end product won’t taste nearly as rich. 

Whether the shortage, or the new high yield trees, become the norm remains to be seen. 

But the prediction made by Kennedy’s Confection magazine editor, Angus Kennedy, just last year, suggests things may never be the same, and that should have all chocolate lovers concerned.

The “chocolate bar of the future,” he said, will likely be made of so little cocoa that it will be “nothing like the chocolate we know and love.”

Sources: The Washington Post, Quartz, The Independent / Photo Credit: Wikipedia