Chocolate prices rise as West Africa’s cocoa crisis worsens | Agricultural News

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Long the world’s powerhouse for cocoa, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the world’s output, Ghana and its West African neighbor Ivory Coast are both facing disastrous harvests this season.

Expectations of a shortage of cocoa beans – used for chocolate – have seen cocoa futures in New York more than double this year alone. They have soared on an almost daily basis in unprecedented ways that indicate a gradual decline.

More than 20 farmers, experts and industry experts told the Reuters news agency that the perfect storm of illegal gold mining, climate change, poor management of fields and fast-spreading diseases are to blame.

In its most dramatic assessment to date, based on data from 2018 and obtained by Reuters, Ghana’s cocoa trade association Cocobod says 590,000 hectares (1.45 million acres) have blight, a deadly virus.

Ghana today has 1.38 million hectares (3.41 million acres) of cocoa plantations, a figure Cocobod said includes infected trees that are still producing cocoa.

“Production is slowing down for a while,” said Steve Waterridge, cocoa expert at Tropical Research Services. “We would not have had the lowest yield in 20 years in Ghana and the lowest in eight years in Ivory Coast, if we had not reached the peak.”

It’s an imbroglio with no easy fix that has shocked markets and could mean the beginning of the end of West Africa’s cocoa monopoly, experts told Reuters. This could open the door to rising manufacturers, especially in Latin America.

And as millions of cocoa farmers in West Africa face a harsh climate, it’s a change that will reverberate through rich commodity markets, perhaps for years to come.

Consumers shopping for Easter treats in the United States will find that chocolate on the shelves is 10 percent more expensive than a year ago, according to a study by research firm NielsenIQ.

As chocolate producers tend to block cocoa purchases months in advance, experts say the dangerous crops in West Africa will affect consumers later this year.

“The kind of chocolate we like to eat, it’s going to be high,” said Tedd George, Africa marketing specialist at Kleos Advisory. “It will be available, but it will be twice as high.”

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