It was just before Halloween last year that I first became suspicious. Had the little fun-size Almond Joys and Kit Kats cost this much last year, or had I simply forgotten?
Then, on the day after Easter--the day when I gloat as dastardly as a villain in a melodrama at the thought of bringing the chocolate industry to its knees by buying up all its leftover bunnies at half price--I could no longer deny that something serious was afoot. Clearly, I was paying 25-50% more than I had just a year ago. I swallowed hard and tried not to panic.
That is, until I went online to find headlines like "Chocolate and Candy Prices Going Up" and "Chocolate: Worth Its Weight in Gold?" But here is the one that sank my heart like the Titanic impaled on a pair of frozen bunny ears--"In Twenty Years Chocolate Will be a Rare Delicacy." Holy Hershey, Batman! What is going on?
Chocolate, it seems, is suffering the fate of many agricultural commodities. Simply put, demand is exceeding supply and driving prices up. Anthea Gerrie of The Independent reports that the cost of cocoa has at least doubled since 2004. There are a multitude of reasons for this. Cacao farmers in the prime growing regions of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Indonesia get so little return on their crop that they can't afford to replenish old and dying plants. Consequently, the younger generation is abandoning farming for more lucrative city employment.
As if those things weren't bad enough, cacao now competes for diminishing agricultural space with other food products needed to sustain a growing world population and with much-needed biofuel materials like palm oil. Add the universal farming challenges of pest control, plant disease, and the variable of the weather, and suddenly Gerrie's prediction that "[t]he world could run out of affordable chocolate within 20 years" doesn't seen so far-fetched. I will be honest with you. This scares me.
No trick-or-treat candy bars for the grandkids and other neighborhood goblins? Unthinkable. No Easter baskets overflowing with bargain chocolate? Unfathomable. But I paint myself far too nobly here. I must face the truth. I am not so much worried about the lack of chocolate for my progeny as I am about living out my own senior years in a world devoid of the sweet balm of chocolate. There--I have come clean. After all, isn't chocolate a food group? What else am I going to use to fill that empty one-fourth of my plate? Eggplant? I don't think so.
I suppose, in view of the other serious economic and humanitarian issues facing us as a nation, it would not be realistic to expect a presidential candidate to build a campaign on the issue of sustainable chocolate. So I guess I should not be obsessing about it. After all, in twenty years, I will be getting close to eighty and may not have any teeth anyway.
In the meanwhile, just in case disaster strikes, maybe I should learn to supplement my diet with the likes of Smarties and Airheads. And, in my spare time, maybe I will do some research on how long next year's chocolate bunnies will last in the deep freeze.