According to a recent report by two of the world’s largest chocolate makers, the gap between how much chocolate the world consumes and how much cocoa manufacturers can produce will become unsustainable in 2020.
Disease, drought, an increase in demand from Chinese markets, as well as the rising popularity of dark chocolate — which requires more cocoa to produce — have combined to create what will swell to a 1 million metric ton deficit by 2020, and a potential 2 million metric ton deficit by 2030.
Hershey has responded to this increased demand by upping the price of its bars, and other chocolate makers have followed suit, which is why cocoa prices have skyrocketed by 60 percent since 2012 — the first year in which the world consumed more chocolate than it produced.
Efforts to increase cocoa production have been hampered first by drought in West Africa, then by the Ebola epidemic, which has strangled trade even with countries not stricken by the disease, like the Ivory Coast.
A fungal disease known as “frosty pod” has also ravaged cocoa production in Central and South America, wiping out an estimated 30 to 40 percent of production capability. Many fear that it is only a matter of time before this disease, as well as witches’ broom, will make its way across the Atlantic.
But as Bloomberg’s Mark Schatzker noted, even if supply is able to keep up with demand, chocolate-lovers may not be happy with the result.
“Efforts are under way to make chocolate cheap and abundant,” he wrote, “in the process inadvertently rendering it as tasteless as today’s store-bought tomatoes, yet another food, along with chicken and strawberries, that went from flavorful to forgettable on the road to plenitude.”
Because breeders rarely focus on the flavor of the crop they are trying to improve, the disease-resistant varieties of chocolate developed in recent decades has a flavor profile that ranges from what Ed Seguine, a chocolate expert, called “acidic dirt” to “just average.”