Chocolate climate change crisis

LOS ANGELES — Chocolate is among the most widely loved foods across all countries, borders and cultures. 

However, because of climate change, chocolate producers are struggling to keep up with demand, which has caused the price of chocolate to spike dramatically.

What You Need To Know

  • Cocoa trees only flourish in a narrow band around the equator. According to Bloomberg, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria produce almost 75% of the globe’s cocoa
  • According to the International Cocoa Organization, the chocolate market will be short 374,000 tons this season
  • Emily Stone, a chocolate expert and author of the book Uncommon Cocoa, says bad weather has caused bean disease, leading to paltry cocoa harvests
  • Stone says that in April of this year, cocoa prices spiked 235% in under six months

At only 15 years old, Jonathan Grahm stepped into his family’s business, Compartes Chocolate, and in recent years, he has taken the beloved chocolate company into the stratosphere by sticking to tradition.

“Most chocolates are made on machinery. We do it all the old-fashioned way, with no conveyor belts, no piping machines. We do everything by hand the way it was done back in 1950,” he said.

Despite the raging success that Compartes has experienced in recent years, a storm is brewing.

The chocolate industry faces a crisis of rapidly rising costs because of climate change, affecting sensitive cocoa tree crops. Cocoa is a tropical fruit tree that grows along the equator, with the majority growing in West Africa.

“It’s the cacao trees that grow the cacao fruits, and you’re really eating the seeds that are inside the cacao fruit,” said Grahm.

Emily Stone is a chocolate expert and author of the book “Uncommon Cocoa.” 

Stone says bad weather leading to bean disease, has led to paltry cocoa harvests, resulting in demand that is fast outpacing cocoa production.

(Spectrum News/Nathalie Basha)

“The dry seasons and the rainy seasons are no longer the reliable, steadfast cornerstones of production of this crop that they have been in the past,” she said.

Stone says the price of cocoa has almost quadrupled in a short period.

“In April of this year, cocoa prices reached a current high of $11,722 per metric ton. That is a 235% increase in under six months,” she said.

As a chocolate maker, Grahm is taking a big financial hit — but he vows his customers at Compartes won’t feel it.    

“For me, I don’t feel like I should raise my prices to our consumers. I think that, because it fluctuates, it’s going to go down soon. I’m not translating those increases to our customers. I just hope that people just stick with us, buy more chocolate, please,” he said.

The Fine Chocolate Industry Association says that since cocoa is traded in futures, consumers may not feel these price increases for another year or two. But, they say it’s inevitable — the price of chocolate will increase.

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