Chocolate supply “crisis” looming, Australian expert predicts

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th April 2012

Rapidly increasing chocolate consumption in developing countries, along with instability in cacao growing areas are leading to a chocolate supply crisis.

According to Professor Guest, from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, the current threats to cacao production include ageing plantations, poorly trained farmers and poorly managed trees, dependence on a narrow genetic base and crop substitution where cacao is replaced by maize because of the demand for bioethanol.

Cacao is grown in West Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Professor Guest said, “Cacao is grown in areas vulnerable to climate change, political instability, pests and diseases.”

The crisis in the supply of chocolate is exacerbated by the fact that global chocolate consumption is rising by two to three percent annually, according to Professor Guest.

“Chocolate consumption trends are different around the globe. In Australia, Europe and North America total consumption – around 6kg of chocolate per capita per year – is stable. However, the trend is to dark chocolates or to niche marketed gourmet chocolates. Consumption dropped slightly during the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009,” said Professor Guest.

“In China, India, Eastern Europe and Brazil, however, per capita consumption rates are increasing rapidly, albeit from a relatively low base.

“One estimate is that global production will need to increase by one million tonnes per year by 2020 – from 3.6 million tonnes in 2009/2010 – to meet global demand,” he added.

To counter a chocolate supply catastrophe, Professor Guest suggests improving the sustainability and profitability of smallholder cacao production.

“While controlling disease is relatively straightforward in theory, changing farming practice to become more sustainable and rewarding is a much more complex challenge involving social, economic, political and environmental factors,” said Professor Guest.