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Chocolate Shortage Looms - What Are Scientists Doing About It?

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Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online

Two of the world’s largest confectioners are warning that global chocolate supplies are running out and there could be a global deficit within the next six years.

According to Washington Post blogger Roberto A. Ferdman, both McLean, Virginia-based Mars Inc. (makers of such treats as M&Ms, 3 Musketeers and Milky Way bars) and Zurich, Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut (the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer) are warning that demand for the products is outpacing supply.

“Chocolate deficits, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm,” Ferdman wrote. “Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. It also looks like deficits aren’t just carrying over from year-to-year – the industry expects them to grow.”

Last year, global consumption of cocoa outpaced production by approximately 70,000 metric tons, he explained. By 2020, the two chocolate makers believe the difference could experience a nearly 15-fold increase to one million metric tons, and by 2030 the discrepancy could balloon to more than two million metric tons.

Barry Callebaut said that its sales had increased by 11.7 percent over the past year, according to Dan Bloom of the Daily Mail, but due to what experts are calling the largest cocoa production shortage in five decades, candy companies and chocolatiers claim that they have no choice but to raise prices on their goods.

“The global cocoa sector may suffer a one million metric ton shortfall by 2020 because of increasing economic and environmental pressures on cocoa farms around the world,” the company said, according to Bloom. “Our long-term business depends on a sustainable supply of high quality cocoa, and we believe that securing cocoa’s future begins with increasing yield for the smallholder farmers.”

There are multiple reasons for the phenomenon, explained Ferdman. On the demand side, the increased consumption of chocolate of China and the increased popularity of dark chocolate has led to a shortage, causing cocoa prices to increase by over 60 percent since 2012.

On the supply side, dry weather in regions of West Africa responsible for producing over 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply has led to decreased production, and a fungal disease known as frosty pod has wiped out an estimated 30 to 40 percent of global crops. Fortunately, scientists are working on a solution to some of these issues.

“To start, the Ivory Coast is planting new hybrid plants called mercedes, which produce more cocoa than average crops,” said Coleen Jose of the website World Mic. “Additionally, a batch of newly introduced strains, the most renowned of which comes from Ecuador, are seeping into the cocoa culture. One breed named CCN-51 is resistant to the frosty pod fungus and produces roughly seven times more beans than its traditional Ecuadorian counterpart.”

Jose notes that CCN-51 comes with one major trade off: taste. Experts have said the taste is on the weak side, and though as Ferdman notes, it is “unclear” if the “milder flavor” will bother consumers, it is clear that “the industry certainly won’t mind, so long as it keeps the potential for a gargantuan shortage at bay.”


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