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Big Chocolate Makers Drop $1 Billion to Head Off Worldwide Cocoa Shortage

Demand is up and production is down.


The world is hungry for chocolate — and cocoa growers are having a tough time keeping up with demand. As an increase in global demand and a recent slump in production produces headlines aplenty warning that the world could run out of chocolate, the Wall Street Journal reports industry giants are shelling out big bucks in an attempt to reverse those trends.

The WSJ cites figures from research firm Euromonitor International saying "global demand for chocolate rose 0.6% to a record 7.1 million tons in 2015, led by a 5.9% jump in Asia." Meanwhile, cocoa production is down: Ghana, the world's number-two grower of cocoa beans, saw a huge drop in crop yields last season thanks to numerous factors including rough weather and old, diseased cacao trees.

As a result, "cocoa prices have jumped nearly 40% since the start of 2012," and Lindt, Nestle, and Hershey's have all increased prices as a result of the surge. (In October, the biggest month for candy sales thanks to Halloween, prices were up 4.2 percent year-over-year thanks to increased prices for cocoa as well as sugar.)

Mondelez, which makes Oreo and Cadbury, has committed $400 million to fueling a cocoa sustainability program through 2022, with employees on the ground in Ghana "[giving] cocoa farmers advice on better ways to space seedlings, apply fertilizer and prune trees." Other producers like Hershey and Mars Inc. are leading their own sustainability efforts, and in an unprecedented move, the top-ten chocolate producing companies have pledged to share "a wide swath of private data on farming practices and crop yields."

Cocoa isn't the only precious bean facing a shortage: Industry experts have warned that coffee production needs to be dramatically ramped up over the next decade in order to fuel an increasing global demand. Much like chocolate, demand for coffee is surging in Asia — particularly China, where Starbucks just announced intentions to open 2,500 more stores over the next five years.

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