Rising demand means quality chocolate risks becoming a luxury item once again if cocoa production continues to decrease.
Cocoa production has been suffering from severe shortages for the past few years and it set to increase in the future.
"We are currently selling a 70g bar for £7 – and the price will go up, as there is ever more demand for properly cultivated beans," London chocolatier Marc Demarquette, former advisor to the BBC’s Panorama documentary about the situation in West African cocoa fields, told UK newspaper The Independent earlier this week.
John Mason, executive director and founder of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council, believes people may even have to start saving up to satisfy their craving in the future.
"In 20 years chocolate will be like caviar. It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won't be able to afford it," he said.
The bitter projections are the result of cocoa trees having become unprofitable for local farmers ever since the multinationals took over the market.
"These smallholders earn just 80 cents a day," Tony Lass, Cocoa Research Association Chairman said at the annual conference of Britain's Academy of Chocolate last month.
In addition to lacking the financial incentive to plant trees, farmers lack the required agricultural territory, which is being overtaken by crops that are more profitable.
“…the other challenge is that cocoa is competing for agricultural space with other commodities like palm oil – which is increasingly in demand for biofuels," Thomas Dietsch, research director of ecosystem services at the Earthwatch Organisation told the Independent.
Norway, as the world’s biggest chocolate consumers, will also have to tackle the chocolate industry’s challenges.
As well as bad pay, an ever-increasing number of West African farmers are giving up and do not bother to replace the old trees when they die. The process is time-consuming and it takes five years before the first crop appears, according to newspaper Vårt Land.
Per Nitter Bondevik, managing director of the Ethical Trading Initiative, suggests one solution. He believes that people who can afford to pay a higher price should do so to benefit the farmers, so solving the profitability issue of growing cocoa trees.
“It is important that responsible Norwegian importers help farmers get paid well enough to cover basic needs […] It is not only morally right, but also a good idea to ensure stable supplies to their own production," he says.
Dag Kjetil Øyna, managing director of the Norwegian Chocolate Producers/Manufacturers Association says he remains reasonably optimistic about the future of chocolate availability and affordability.
“Increasing demand for chocolate in China and other growing economies will give higher cocoa prices, encouraging cocoa farmers to produce more. There will be less room for commodity speculation with better balance between supply and demand.”
Like this article? Show your appreciation.