Hoaxes & Rumors

Worldwide Chocolate Shortage: Certainty or Hype?

Cocoa farmer David Kebu Jnr holding the finished product, dried cocoa beans ready for export. Photo taken by Irene Scott for AusAID
Worldwide Chocolate Shortage: Certainty or Hype?

The internet was abuzz in late 2014 over a Washington Post article on a worldwide chocolate shortage by the year 2020. Will chocolate become a scarce luxury or is it all hype?

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Worldwide Chocolate Shortage?

On November 15th, 2014, the Washington Post published an article about a potential global chocolate deficit. Within days, many major news media outlets covered the story, oftentimes citing information from the Washington Post column.

According to the Washington Post, which sourced a December 2013 feature from Bloomberg, the planet is currently facing the biggest chocolate shortfall in five decades, and international consumption of cocoa had exceeded annual production by approximately 70,000 metric tons. It was speculated that global consumption of cocoa could exceed production by 1 million metric tons in 2020, and 2 million metric tons in 2030.

The outpacing of production due to consumption was cited as the reason for a 60% price increase of cocoa over the last two years. An October 2014 article from NBC claimed that the rising cost of ingredients had caused the price of making a chocolate bar to increase 28% since January, and the Washington Post declared that chocolate prices might escalate 14% by the end of the year.

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There were even assertions that chocolate may eventually become a luxury item only affordable by the affluent.  Fox News cited a 2010 interview from the Independent in which John Mason of the Nature Conservation Research Council  (based in Ghana, Africa) was quoted as saying, “in 20 years, chocolate will be like caviar… It will become so rare and expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.”

Reasons Cited for Chocolate Shortage

Following are explanations for the shortage which have been cited in recent articles:

Is This Story Exaggerated?

Although there does seem to be a bit of a temporary chocolate deficiency, and the reasons for this appear to be legitimate, the wording of these articles should be examined carefully.  It appears that the excitement in relation to this particular story may be due to hyped overstatement.

In a November 2014 statement to USA Today, Michael Segal, a spokesman for the International Cocoa Organization replied that the current deficit was normal and that the the world cocoa supply often experienced routine peaks and valleys.  He was quoted as saying, “What we’re looking at is a very tight close relationship between production and consumption. There might be a small, fairly insignificant deficit or a small, fairly insignificant surplus.” When directly asked about specific  statistics in regards to the recently reported scarcity of cocoa, he replied, “Our most recent predictions and forecasts are not showing anything of the kind.”

Bottom Line

A recent batch of news stories has claimed that there is a global shortage of chocolate. While there are many legitimate reasons for such a shortfall, there have also been claims that these stories are hyped and overstated. Due to conflicting reports, it remains somewhat unclear how much of a chocolate deficit the world is facing, yet claims of exaggeration seem to ring true.

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