Dire news for chocoholics: cocoa’s end is nigh. Climate change pressures have diminished the global supply of cheap cocoa over the past decade.
Cocoa needs very specific heat, humidity, and precipitation conditions to grow, and in the last decade climate changes have hampered the crop from flourishing. The world's cocoa is grown in a narrow belt 10 degrees either side of the Equator.
70% of the cocoa that goes into the entire world’s chocolates is grown in just two countries - Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. So when cocoa farming there suffers a setback, the impact sends shockwaves across the entire global industry. Recent dry weather over West Africa has greatly decreased worldwide cocoa production. A nasty fungal disease known as frosty pod hasn't helped either. Because of all this, cocoa farming has proven a particularly harsh business, so as a result many Ivorian and Ghanaian farmers have shifted to more profitable crops, like corn.
As temperatures rise; extreme droughts and extreme storms become more frequent; and as farmers abandon their crops in the global cocoa basket of West Africa, the cocoa industry is on course to run out of affordable chocolate within 20 years, industry experts claim.
Your chocolate bar really is under threat. Mars and Swiss Callebaut are standing behind these facts of rising temperature’s impact on cocoa beans. Cocoa trees grow well in humid tropical climates with regular rains and a short dry season. The trees need even temperatures between 21-23 degrees Celsius, with a constant rainfall of 1000-2500mm per year. Cocoa beans cannot cope with the IPCC’s predictions of drought, excess heat, nor with erratic rains.
The predictions are worrying for many. ‘9 out of 10 people are considered to be chocoholics and the 10th person is said to be a liar’. There is some truth in that witticism, in cocoa’s universal appeal. A theobromine, a talismanic ‘food of the gods’ from the Aztec civilisation, to the 19th century European sugared milky recipe many love today, and now that appeal is spreading to China.
"Galaxy, Creme Eggs, every kind of £1 chocolate bar will be a thing of the past," warns London chocolatier Marc Demarquette, who believes a bar at £7, or its future equivalent, will be more like it.
cocoa prices have climbed by more than 60 percent since 2012, when people started eating more chocolate than the world could produce. And chocolate makers have, in turn, been forced to adjust by raising the price of their bars, Hershey's was the first. Efforts to counter the growing imbalance between the amount of chocolate the world wants and the amount farmers can produce has inspired a bit of much needed innovation. Specifically, an agricultural research group in Central Africa is developing trees that can produce up to seven times the amount of beans traditional cocoa trees can. The uptick in efficiency, however, might be compromising taste, says Bloomberg's Mark Schatzker likening the trade-off to other mass-produced commodities. Efforts are under way to make chocolate cheap and abundant - in the process inadvertently rendering it as tasteless as today’s store-bought tomatoes.