Chocolate manufacturers have announced what may be the greatest fear of chocolate-lovers around the globe — the world is running out of chocolate. In fact, the chocolate deficit, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm.
The Washington Post reports that the problem has been compounding for some time. Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. Leading chocolate manufactures, Mars and Barry Callebaut, warn that by 2020, this number could swell to 1 million metric tons, a more than 14-fold increase; by 2030, they think the deficit could reach 2 million metric tons.
Why exactly are we running out of chocolate? Bloomberg reports that higher demand is part of the problem. Demand for chocolate is increasing, as the United States seems to have an insatiable appetite that keeps chocolate producers busy.
However, the U.S. isn’t the only country heavily consuming chocolate goods. In the Asia-Pacific region, home to more than half the world’s population and 12 percent of chocolate demand, each person will eat 0.4 pounds in 2014, double the amount of a decade earlier. Sales in China will also rise 6.9 percent to a record 193,100 tons this year, and expand 6.6 percent further in 2014, the researcher said. Europe also loves their chocolate. The 2.2 million tons eaten last year in Western Europe will increase by 0.5 percent this year before expanding 0.6 percent next year.
If a massive increase in demand isn’t enough to strain cocoa producers, dry weather will certainly do it. Dry weather in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the biggest cocoa growers, has made it more difficult for producers to have a healthy crop. This has led to lower output at cocoa farms. To top the dry weather, a nasty fungal disease known as frosty pod hasn’t helped either. The International Cocoa Organization estimates it has wiped out between 30 percent and 40 percent of global cocoa crops. Because of all this, cocoa farming has proven a particularly tough business, and many farmers have shifted to more profitable crops, like corn, as a result.
Interestingly, though cocoa is in high demand across the globe, many who work on farms that harvest the crop have never eaten a chocolate product.
So what can be done to ensure the world doesn’t run out of chocolate? Unfortunately, nothing in regards to traditional cocoa. However, 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. Sadly, the more efficient tress will most likely be unable to keep the same strong flavor. Bloomberg notes that the chocolate’s flavor is expected to be much more mild.
“Efforts are under way to make chocolate cheap and abundant — 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.”
What do you think the future holds for chocolate production? Will the world run out of traditional cocoa trees and be replaced with mass-producing replicas of a once robust industry?