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Home » Food » Food News

Is the world really running out of chocolate?

Chocolate lovers who have been worried by recent stories suggesting that the world may be running out if their favourite foodstuff now have an additional cause for concern. Scientists have suggested that a powerful El Nino event later this year could adversely affect the climate in cocoa-producing regions, disrupting supplies and causing prices of cocoa — and other vulnerable commodities, such as coffee and rice - to rise still further. 

Cocoa prices have risen steadily over the last 15 yearsand are now close to their all-time high of around £2,000 a tonne. Forecasts of an El Niño event — in which waters in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean become unusually warm as trade winds die down, disrupting weather patterns around the world — have been cited by manufacturers as a significant factor in recent price rises, along with concerns over the Ebola outbreak in Africa and market speculation by opportunistic traders. 

It has been suggested that prices of some foods could double, but chocolate consumers can comfort themselves with the thought that manufacturers have long been taking steps to avert any crisis.

A constant factor in chocolate production is not the threats of climate, political unrest or disease, but the simple and inescapable fact that chocolate is appealing, and that as more people around the world have more money, demand for it is rising faster than supply.

That is the one constant behind prices which have risen inexorably over the last ten years. British consumers are feeling the pinch in different ways. Those who favour high-end chocolate, often made in small quantities by boutique producers who buy straight from the farmers, will have seen prices of their favourite bars rise, but will have had their consciences soothed by assurances that more of what they pay goes directly to those who grow the cocoa beans. 

Manufacturers on a larger scale do not make the same claims. Instead they are changing the shape of their bars — rather than their prices — or adding cheaper ingredients to make the pricey cocoa go further.

Fans of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, for example, may have been delighted by all the exciting new ingredients that the manufacturer — owned these days by the American food giants Kraft — have been adding to their favourite chocolate, which can now be obtained with oats, mint, biscuits of various kinds, and even Jelly Popping Candy Shells. All of which are very exciting, but also most likely to be cheaper than cocoa, and highly unlikely to be affected by El Nino events. Clever. 

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