Chocolates are displayed during the 2nd Chocolate Fair in Barcelona October 21, 2006 (Photo: Reuters)
Rising demand from Asia and economic and environmental pressure on cocoa farms is threatening to make chocolate a rare delicacy in the next five years, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
World’s largest chocolate maker, Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut Group, is the latest industry giant to warn of a “potential cocoa shortage by 2020.”
Back in 2012, then-UK president of Mars chocolate Fiona Dawson warned that the global cocoa industry “may suffer a one million tonne shortage by 2020 because of the increasing economic and environmental pressures on cocoa farms.”
“It’s just not sustainable,” said Dawson.
Global cocoa consumption has grown by an average of three percent every year from 2008 to 2012, with rising demand from a growing middle class in China, India, and Brazil, according to the World Cocoa Foundation.
Meanwhile, production has grown by an average of 3.1 percent a year, says the Foundation, which predicts that while “demand is projected to continue its stable growth, supply growth may slow due to changing weather patterns in the largest cocoa-producing areas.”
Cocoa prices rose in 2013/14 by some 25 percent, says Barry Callebaut, from around £1,600 per tonne to more than £2,000 per tonne, on the back of “fears related to the Ebola outbreak in some West-African countries… el Nino forecasts… as well as financial speculation.”
Almost 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown in Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast, which alone with produces 33 percent of global supply, according to the Foundation.
About 80 to 90 percent of that production comes from small, family-run farms, “which often rely on outdated farming practices and have limited organisational leverage,” says the Foundation.
The vulnerability of cocoa trees to pest and disease and increased competition from other cash crops is making cocoa farming lose its appeal to growers.
Last May, the Foundation, including industry leaders Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut, launched an initiative called “CocoaAction” in the Ivory Coast and Ghana to support growers and make cocoa farming sustainable.
Unless the industry can successfully address existing issues, chocolate as we know it is in danger of becoming a rare delicacy.
“In 20 years, chocolate will be like caviar,” John Mason of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council predicted in 2010, according to WP.
“It will become so rare and expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it,” he said.