With the Easter weekend at an end and a collection of small chocolate eggs sitting on my desk, I find myself reading again through the articles I had read over the last decade about the impending chocolate shortage. Could it really be that the days of cheap chocolate are coming to an end?
What is the problem? Basically demand is expected to outstrip the current supply in less than 10 years. An article in Scientific American last February stated that current production was 3.7 million metric tons.
So why don’t we grow more? Unfortunately Theobroma cacao, the tree that produces cacao beans that is then turned into chocolate is difficult to grow as it has quite specific needs. Back in 1998 an article in the New York Times spoke about the impending cacao shortage and that we should move away from plantations and more towards smaller farmers. This has been done and supply has been increased. However, the increase in production has mainly come from growing more trees rather than producing cultivars with higher yields. By 2050 the predicted average temperatures in the areas now used for cultivation will make many of them unsuitable.
Pests and diseases are also an issue. Fungal diseases such as monilia, black pod disease (Phytophthora) and witches broom can have devastating effects on the yield.
With chocolate being as popular as it is, it is hard to believe that a solution will not be found, lets hope so, for the sake of chocolate Easter eggs, romantic boxes of chocolates and least we forget, the humble chocolate digestive or hob nob to go with our cups of tea.