The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, be sure to savor it, because according to two of the world's largest chocolate makers - Mars, Inc. and Barry Callebaut, the decadent treat may soon be in short supply. The problem? We are consuming the candy at a faster pace than farmers can grow cocoa.
The manufacturers say that in 2013, consumers devoured 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than was produced. And while having a couple of years of chocolate deficits would not be a matter of concern, experts say that this is the worst streak of supply-demand imbalance they have experienced in more than 50 years.
Part of the reason for the disparity is the large reduction in supply, caused by a prolonged drought in the West African countries of Ivory Coast and Ghana, where more than 70 percent of the world's cocoa is produced. Additionally, a nasty fungal disease known as frosty pod has destroyed 30 to 40 percent of global cocoa production. As a result, many farmers have switched to more profitable and easier to grow crops like corn. This means that even if conditions improve, cocoa production may never get back to normal. The good news is that there are some attempts being made to increase supply with trees that can produce up to seven times the amount of cocoa beans. But those are not ready for mass deployment yet.
Meanwhile, the world is only getting hungrier for chocolate. The biggest increase in demand is from the residents of emerging market countries like India. Though their consumption per capita is nowhere close to the amount Europeans devour, their newly acquired penchant for the treat, is making a huge dent in an already tight market.
There is also the growing appetite for dark chocolate, which contains more than 70 percent cocoa compared to normal chocolate that has a paltry 10 percent. Experts believe that if consumption continue at this pace, cocoa deficits could swell to one million metric tons by 2020 and to an even more worrisome, two million metric tons, by 2030.
Not surprisingly, cocoa prices have risen by 60% since 2012, a cost that manufacturers have offset by raising the prices of everyone's favorite candy. As the situation worsens, the price of chocolate can only rise - so be sure to enjoy every piece of the sweet treat, like it is your last!
Resources: Washingtonpost.com, USAtoday.com