The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is beginning to take its toll on global markets in an unexpected way: The price of chocolate is rising.
According to NPR, Ivory Coast and Ghana account for more than half of the world’s cocoa production. To date, neither has reported cases of Ebola, but that’s somewhat of a geographical miracle. Ivory Coast borders Ebola-ravaged Liberia and Guinea to the east, and Ghana shares its western a border with Ivory Coast.
Strict disease-control measures put in place by Ivory Coast—closed borders, roadblocks, and travel restrictions—are to thank. But those measures are also hampering the region’s agricultural production. The flood of migrant workers from Liberia and Guinea who usually pick cocoa pods during harvest season are absent this season. All this means higher prices.
Maria Valente, Co-Owner/Chocolatier at Chocolations in Mamaroneck, says her supplier is raising prices but, as of right now, it’s unclear by how much. “My chocolate manufacturer told me the prices were going up,” she says. “But they didn’t say it had anything to do with Ebola. And I’m not sure if it does in my case, because the chocolate I use comes mainly from Central and South America.”
Diane Holland, Owner/Chocolatier at Blue Tulip Chocolates in Rye, says that she’s hoping she won’t have to raise prices, but, if she must, will hold off until after the holiday season to do so. She’s also considering other options. “If [the price increase] were dramatic, if it really affects my bottom line, I’ll source out different chocolate,” she says. “Right now I use a lot of French and Belgian chocolate, and they source from a number of different places, but Africa’s one of them. But I have South American and Latin America chocolate that I also use to complement my foundational chocolate, and if need be I’ll have to source more of that or a type of chocolate that I like and that I think my customers like to stay in a reasonable price range.”
According to POLITICO, Cocoa futures normally trade between $2,000 and $2,700 per ton. Prices soared as high as $3,400 in September and have since hovered above $3,000.
Chocolations’s Valente says she caught wind of the price increase right before The World Cocoa Foundation announced that it was seeking donations from major chocolate companies (Nestlé, Mars, etc.) to combat the outbreak.
“I’m going to see what the difference is, and if it isn’t too significant I can probably eat it,” says Valente. “But if it is going to be a major difference in price, then I will have to raise my prices, unfortunately.”