When we heard about the impending Guacapocalypse last year, we thought no food crisis could ever be worse. Well, Mother Nature has thrown the food world another curveball, this one even more daunting, and a chocolate shortage could be heading our way. Don’t worry too much though; it is still a little soon to start hoarding Hershey’s bars.
Mars, Inc. and Barry Callebaut, two of the world’s largest chocolate makers, are warning consumers that the world’s chocolate deficit is growing to US budget deficit type levels. We are consuming chocolate at levels that could lead to a shortage, or just really really high chocolate prices, down the road. According to the Washington Post, the world at around 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced, and by 2020 deficit could swell. To put that 70,000 metric ton number in perspective, it is over 159 million standard 1.55 ounce Hershey bars that we would need to stop consuming. Hershey only produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 375 million Hershey bars a year.
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What’s to blame for the rising deficit? The International Cocoa Organization puts much of the responsibility on a fungal disease known as frosty pod, which has wiped out 30-40% of cocoa production. Drought in the cocoa producing West African region hasn’t made the problem any better. Consumers aren’t blame free in this matter though, with the rising popularity of chocolate in China and the rising popularity of higher cocoa content dark chocolate rising across the world.
The shortage is a ways off, but consumers have already felt the effect on their wallets. Cocoa prices have risen by more than 60% since the deficit began. Chocolate makers have started to charge more and will probably continue to raise their prices as the deficit grows.
All hope is not lost though. The scientific community is getting involved in the chocolate shortage, with scientists working on improving cocoa production yields. Callebaut chief executive Juergen Steinemann saying today, “securing cocoa’s future begins with increasing yield for the smallholder.” Here’s to hoping that the scientists’ pursuits are successful and we can still enjoy chocolate at a reasonable price in years to come.
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