October 16, 2014
How Much Is A Kitkat? Ebola Threatens Chocolate Prices

The Ebola outbreak has caused many to be concerned about the well being of themselves and their families but more recently, a new issue has come up - chocolate. Yes, you read that right. Ebola, after killing more than 5,000 is now threatening the world's chocolate supply.

In September, cocoa prices spiked to three-year highs because of the Ebola threat, jumping from $2,000 per ton to as high s $3,400 per ton, the Politico reports. This owing to the fact that there stands a chance the Ebola virus may spread from the surrounding areas into the Ivory Coast. Ebola has already been spread to North America and Europe.

The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the largest producers of cocoa—the main ingredient in chocolate. The Coast shares borders with Liberia and Guinea. In case this means nothing to you-- Liberia and Guinea along with Sierra Leone are the West African countries at the centre of the Ebola outbreak. In an effort to keep Ebola from spreading across its borders, The Ivory Coast has sealed the borders it shares with Liberia and Guinea.

The sealing of borders to keep out Ebola creates an even bigger problem than it solves. Even with borders being sealed Ebola is still an imminent threat to the cocoa industry. The majority of the workers who harvest cocoa on the Coast migrate from the Ebola infected countries, Liberia and Guinea. Transport limitations stemming from border closure due to Ebola would therefore have great impact on the region's cocoa. Border restrictions may keep the Ebola virus from spreading but it also restricts labor from entering as well, affecting the livelihoods of all who depend on the cocoa bean.

In response to the world's Ebola (and chocolate) crisis, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) has announced that it will donate a sum of $600,000 towards fighting Ebola in West Africa. The World Cocoa Foundation comprises of big names in the Chocolate industry such as Mars, Hershey and Nestle.

The Mars, Hershey and Nestle brands are all billion dollar industries. Cocoa farmers on the other hand, according to CNN are some of the poorest in the world. For those with a sweet tooth, this news about Ebola affecting the world's chocolate supply may seem like the heralding of doomsday. But while many of us are privileged enough to have experienced the goodness that is a snicker bar, many of the cocoa farmers have never even tasted chocolate. Yes, they too will be affected by the market shock an Ebola spread would cause, but for completely different reasons. For them, cocoa is their means to an end.

The Ivory Coast is not the only country in Africa that secured its borders from Ebola infected areas. Nations as far South as South Africa and Namibia (which have no known cases of Ebola) have incorporated the Ebola ban. The Inquisitr reported that 58 percent of Americans responding to a poll are in favor of banning all flights from Ebola infected regions.