People are apparently eating too much chocolate and this could be a bad thing for the future of cocoa. The market for cocoa continues to rise, but the production is not there enough to meet the ever-increasing demand. Two of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers are predicting that a shortage of chocolate may be coming. Research done by Swiss based chocolatier, Barry Callebaut, and Mars, Inc. shows signs that consumers are eating more cocoa based products than the farmers can produce, which in turn, is driving up the prices.
More than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa, specifically Ghana and the Ivory Coast regions. With a drought ravaging the cocoa plantations in the region and a fungal infection, known as frosty pod, wiping out around 30 to 40 percent of the cocoa, farmers are turning to different types of cash-crops, such as corn, in order to survive. These cocoa shortages are becoming a normal occurrence, as the world is currently dealing with one of the longest streaks of consecutive chocolate deficits in over 50 years.
Not only are these cocoa deficits carrying over every year, but they are, in fact growing from year to year. Last year, it is estimated that the consumption of cocoa was approximately 70,000 metric tons more than what was produced. Industry experts are predicting that the coming chocolate shortage could mean that by 2020 the over consumption could rise to more than one million metric tons of cocoa. Based on these current predictions that number could rise to a nearly 2 million metric ton deficit by 2030.
On top of the problems plaguing cocoa farmers, the demand for chocolate continues to increase around the world. One country that is mentioned as being particularly concerning is China, as the demand for cocoa products in the country continues to grow every year. While the consumption of cocoa continues to rise in China, they still eat only about 5 percent of what the average Western European consumes.
Another factor contributing to the cocoa shortage is the increase in popularity for dark chocolate. The percentage of cocoa in dark chocolate is significantly more than in other chocolates. In fact the average bar of chocolate may contain about 10 percent cocoa, whereas in the dark variety there can be up to 70 percent cocoa. Some specialty dark bars have an even higher percentage of cocoa nearing up to 85 percent.
There have been efforts made to counter the shortage and these efforts have inspired innovations. In Central Africa an agricultural research group has started developing trees that may be able to produce seven times more cocoa beans than the traditional trees. With the additional inventory though, comes some compromises, most notably in the taste of the product. So while these efforts may produce a greater quantity of cocoa beans, the flavor may be more mild than what the traditional trees offer.
While there may be flavor trade-offs in order to avoid the coming chocolate shortage, it may be a sacrifice that people are willing to make in order to keep costs down. Not only will the milder flavored beans potentially help to hold off a massive deficit, but may also prevent the prices from rising further.
By Kimberley Spinney
Photo by Peter Pearson – Flickr License