Chocolate shortage possible by 2020

Nov 18, 2014 11:28 AM by NBC News

There's no need to start hoarding Hershey's yet but the world could be running out of chocolate.

Cue screams. Cue tackles at the office candy bowl. Let the streets run brown from "The Chocolate Wars."

After all, there could be a "a potential cocoa shortage by 2020," said international candy-making giant Barry Callebaut in its 2014 annual report. That's if current farming methods don't get an upgrade, industry giants say.

This echoes warnings by confectioner Mars, which has previously predicted a global shortage of 1 million tonnes of cocoa by the year 2020.

Several trends are to blame for the sweet shortfall, said Matthew Bradbard, a commodities analyst at Chicago-based RCM Asset Management.

For starters, "China has a growing appetite for chocolate," said Bradbard. Meanwhile, a fungal infection called "frosty pod" is estimated to have wiped out 30-40 percent of the world's cocoa production.

On top of that, the big ups and downs in the cocoa market, like the recent Ebola scare that sent prices spiking 15 percent, continue to scare off smaller farmers from the market.

To ensure steadier supplies, big chocolate producers like Mars have pledged to buy 100 percent "sustainably grown" cocoa by 2020.

That's a ways away. What about this season? Are our stockings and Hanukkah gilt in peril?

"I don't think so," said Bardbard with a laugh.

And likely for seasons to come. You just might have to pay a prettier penny at times to get them.


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