Ana Veciana-Suarez

Ana Veciana-Suarez: Start hoarding now for the chocolate shortage

MCT

The world is running out of chocolate!

I read that dreadful statement quite by happenstance, while doing online research on a totally different subject. Still, the news haunted me all weekend.

The world is running out of chocolate!

As a woman who believes cocoa deserves to be its own food group, I was further devastated to learn that this isn’t a Chicken Little warning. Nothing bogus about the threat, no. The shortage is happening as I write this. As I pop a dark-chocolate chunk into my mouth for a mid-morning pick-me-up.

How will I survive?

The shortage is caused by many things, not the least of which is that we’re eating too much chocolate. Apparently the world’s appetite for this treat is insatiable. And well, of course. I understand, I sympathize. Life would be quite unbearable without chocolate.

Let me supply some figures so you know I’m not making this up: Last year we ate more cocoa than we produced —70,000 metric tons, to be exact. In five years, chocolate makers say the shortfall will increase to one million metric tons. By 2030: two million metric tons!

Industry watchers says that this is the longest streak of consecutive chocolate shortages in five decades. See why I’m running scared?

Like all goods, some more than others, cocoa is subjected to the law of supply and demand — and the demand is skyrocketing in places heretofore unfamiliar with this gastronomic delight. Blame the Chinese. We fault them for lots of other things anyway, the shortage in cement being a recent example. (There’s a difference between the two essentials of course: we can stop building, but we should never ever, ever, deprive ourselves of chocolate.)

Chocolate sales in China are expected to grow almost 60 percent in the next four years, and people in the Asia-Pacific region are eating twice as much chocolate as a decade ago. Even that doesn’t hold a wrapper to Western Europe’s rapacious consumption.

Adding to the problem are two other issues, disease and global warming. The former has wiped out the trees in Costa Rica, the latter is wreaking havoc with rainfall in West Africa. Oh, and one more thing — our growing preference for dark chocolate isn’t making it any easier on the world’s supply, either. While the average chocolate bar contains about 10 percent cocoa, dark chocolate (the seriously good kind, I might add) contains up to 70 percent.

I keep chocolate with me at all times, the better to be prepared for life. There is no problem chocolate cannot solve, no stress it cannot soothe, no obstacle it cannot overcome. So in a pocket of my purse, I store a tiny tin of this life-giving substance, ready to be refilled whenever the supply gets low. In my home office, I stock a small pot that never settles on empty, and at my desk in the newsroom, a jar to share with co-workers. In addition to these stashes, two pantry drawers are devoted exclusively to storing my BOGO purchases. Heaven forbid I run out.

Now, however, I might have to refine my hoarding tactics. Industry insiders and commodity brokers, who have been sounding the alarm since at least the end of last year, predict scarcity and higher prices.

Phooey! I really don’t like standing in line or paying a premium, but a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do. I cannot, under any circumstances, renounce this passion.

Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.

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