December 6, 2014

There are several factors influencing the possible impending chocolate shortage, from drought and climate change to increased demand. Lately many headlines have included two words that should never be said together: ‘chocolate’ and ‘shortage.’  Rumors have spread that sweets-lovers and pastry chefs should start stockpiling the sought-after treat to hold them over in case of the impending cacao shortage. But is one really coming? Here are some factors affecting the price and productivity of the cacao industry:

Many cacao farms are being replaced with crops that are more productive because of the increasing price of cacao farming. Other crops like rubber and corn are considered easier to farm and have a higher crop yield, which means more profit for everyone involved. There is hope, however, in the potential for genetically engineered cacao. According to GMO Compass, modified crops will be resistant to fungal and viral infections as well as pest infestations and will have a greater yield and sweetness. The source states that commercial use of genetically modified cocoa is not expected for a long, yet unspecified time. According to Bloomberg, a strain of cacao beans called CCN51 is being used in Ecauador. It is resistant to witches’ broom fungus and has a yield that is seven times greater than cacao naturally growing in the area. The flavor, however has been referred to as acidic dirt and not fit for consumption by several major chocolatiers.

Disease and climate change
With the World’s temperature rising, the growing season for cocoa will decrease as droughts increase. Frosty Pod, a fungal disease that decimated the coast of Costa Rica in 1978, and Witches Broom, another fungus that more than halved the cocoa production in Bahia, Brazil, are also threats to the survival of cocoa-producing farms.

Increasing demand
As the world’s population rises, Hershey Company foresees that China will follow the U.S. as the second largest chocolate-consuming nation in the world. According to Mars Inc and Barry Callebaut AG(BARN), the gap between the demand for cocoa and how much cocoa is produced will reach a 1 million metric ton deficit by 2020. Bloomberg investigated and found that disease, drought, and crop displacement were major factors in the possible shortage.

Boulder culinary school attendees know that chocolate is an important ingredient in many recipes and fuels some serious late-night study sessions. You may even frequent Piece, Love $ Chocolate on Pearl Street, which would be seriously affected by a cacao shortage. There is no need to start buying the sweet treat in bulk just yet, but future generations may find prices rising and less availability of the delicious ingredient.