2024 brings a cocoa shortage, here's what you should know about it

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2024 brings a cocoa shortage, here's what you should know about it
13 May 2024
6 min read

Blog Post

In 2024, the world is grappling with a significant cocoa shortage, stirring concerns across industries reliant on this vital commodity. Cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate production, faces supply challenges driven by various factors, including climate change, geopolitical tensions, and pandemic-related disruptions.

This shortage has profound implications for chocolatiers, consumers, and economies heavily reliant on cocoa production.

The cocoa shortage underscores the vulnerability of global supply chains and the fragility of agricultural systems in the face of mounting environmental pressures. Climate change-induced shifts in weather patterns have disrupted cocoa cultivation, leading to decreased yields in major cocoa-producing regions.

Additionally, geopolitical tensions and trade disputes have further exacerbated supply constraints, hindering the smooth flow of cocoa from producers to consumers.

For chocolatiers and confectionery manufacturers, the cocoa shortage presents significant challenges, including rising costs, supply chain disruptions, and the need for innovative solutions to maintain product quality and meet consumer demand.

Consumers may experience higher prices and potential scarcity of their favorite chocolate products as companies navigate the impacts of the cocoa shortage.

Moreover, countries heavily reliant on cocoa production for economic livelihoods, particularly in West Africa, face socio-economic challenges due to reduced yields and export revenues.

Addressing the cocoa shortage requires collaborative efforts among stakeholders, including governments, industry players, and agricultural experts, to implement sustainable practices, improve resilience, and ensure the long-term viability of cocoa production.

The Cocoa Dilemma of 2024: What You Need to Understand

We all know that chocolate is the most popular sweet in the world, as no one can resist its deliciousness. Today, chocolate comes in various shapes, sizes, and tastes, so you can find avocado and chocolate in the same recipe. Some products even use jalapeno and bacon for their chocolate bars.

But what fewer people know is that the cocoa from which chocolate is made is the subject of several controversies. Unfortunately, factors like climate change and the ethical problems associated with chocolate making are leading to an unprecedented crisis, as beans are not that easy to procure any more. Therefore, all chocolate lovers in the world should expect prices to boom in 2024, affecting the food industry.

Let’s see why that happens and how companies can manage the cocoa shortage and chocolate crisis.

Leading cocoa producers facing financial troubles

The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the main African countries whose contribution to cocoa and chocolate worldwide is significant. Still, cocoa also comes from Nigeria and Cameroon, and all four countries produce 70% of the cocoa beans used for chocolate globally.

Lately, these cocoa plants made it clear that 2024 will be a difficult year since cocoa beans are expensive, and they can’t afford them at the same rate anymore. Hence, chocolate prices will explode as cocoa processing has been diminished or stopped in some areas. The last three years of cocoa harvest were challenging, and experts believe the trend will continue. So, being a cocoa supplier currently poses numerous challenges as global cocoa stocks are supposed to fall considerably at the end of the season.

Tree diseases and extreme weather to be at fault

Among the factors that have led to less cocoa production in the past years, we’ve noticed that tree diseases are getting more aggressive, especially the fungal black pod disease, triggered by the soggy weather. Excessive rain and humidity, as well as lack of sun exposure, affect crops, and copper-based fungicides seem to be ineffective.

The swollen shoot virus is another problem because insects spread it and can kill the tree entirely in a few years after its infection begins. Usually, there’s no other solution to handle it than to cut down infected trees. Considering that it takes about five years for a cacao tree to produce pods, it’s no wonder that cacao has been scarce. Chocolate companies have to cautiously choose their supplier in the future, looking for suppliers that approach farmer segmentation, such as Ofi, that supports farmers in managing financial struggles and tailoring requirements in terms of possibilities.

Also Read: Coffee- How Does It Affect Blood Pressure?

Climate change in West Africa is worsening

Trees are getting sick, and cacao is insufficient to sustain the global demand due to climate change. Reports show that the next ten to twenty years will be detrimental in West Africa as temperatures and precipitations will rise. This will contribute to more buzz in the areas as humanitarian emergencies and political tensions stir up communities.

Nigeria, for example, experienced some of the highest temperatures since February, although the hot season usually starts in March and April. As a result, many citizens suffer from heat rash and weakness. Still, the actual danger is that hot temperatures can lead to diseases, such as heart attacks or strokes, and affect livestock by reducing fertility and triggering health vulnerabilities. Along with Nigeria, countries like Benin, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast had the most extreme weather in 2024.

How can we respond to climate change in Africa?

The United Nations proposed a few solutions to navigate climate change, such as addressing waste in the Ivory Coast, providing technical support in Ghana, Morocco, and Uganda, and teaching the young workforce how to develop mechanical solar dryers.

However, green financing seems the best current solution because it could support smart agriculture and other environmentally friendly investments in Africa. Countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe are creating budgets to manage drought, so there is progress towards climate change mitigation. Unfortunately, African countries experience worryingly water and heat stress, and droughts and seasonal shifts are more intense than ever.

Companies are already seeking chocolate alternatives

Besides the environmental challenges, chocolate and cocoa are pretty controversial, as they pose several unethical questions to the industry. It’s been more than two decades of manufacturing chocolate since we became aware of the lack of human rights, where people were paid less than one dollar per day while child labor flourished. At the same time, tropical forests were cut down to plant more cocoa trees so that the sector could be extensively exploited.

While these issues are less prominent today, as awareness has led to change for the better, problems with the cocoa industry still make researchers and companies look for alternatives.

Still, this solution might not be suitable for solving the problem entirely. For example, the primary source of income on the Ivory Coast is agriculture, as the country is the leading global exporter of cocoa beans. It is also known for providing coffee, palm oil, and cashews. Therefore, switching sides and choosing alternative chocolate will contribute to a detrimental situation for the citizens’ lives, as they’ve always relied on the cocoa industry.

The same situation can happen in Ghana and other countries whose economies rely on cocoa. Indeed, Ghana is also exporting gold and crude petroleum, but if it gave up on cocoa tomorrow, the nation would be at a loss.

The only solution to this issue would be to offer farmers and employees better pay and working conditions, end child labor, and allow people to work based on human rights. This way, African countries can flourish as communities access education and support.

Are you ready for this year’s chocolate crisis?

Climate change has heavily impacted countries in West Africa, where cocoa production is the population's main income source. Extreme heat and humidity led to tree diseases. Therefore, the amount of beans that can be collected is being cut down, which is why prices are forecasted to explode in the near future. Companies and customers should also prepare for increased chocolate prices, as climate change will still affect cocoa trees.

In conclusion,

the cocoa dilemma of 2024 presents a multifaceted challenge with far-reaching implications for both producers and consumers of chocolate. The convergence of climate change, tree diseases, and ethical concerns surrounding cocoa production underscores the urgency for sustainable solutions and proactive measures.

As we navigate through this crisis, it is imperative for stakeholders across the cocoa supply chain to prioritize environmental stewardship, ethical labor practices, and community well-being. Initiatives aimed at supporting farmers, improving agricultural resilience, and promoting sustainable farming practices are essential for mitigating the impact of climate change on cocoa production.

Moreover, consumer awareness and demand for ethically sourced chocolate can drive positive change within the industry, encouraging companies to prioritize social responsibility and environmental sustainability.

Ultimately, by working collaboratively and embracing innovative approaches, we can address the cocoa shortage while fostering a more sustainable and equitable future for cocoa-producing regions and chocolate enthusiasts worldwide.

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