Cocoa Prices Triple in One Year as Climate Change Hits Crops

Nairobi, Kenya — With a week until Easter, chocolate lovers should brace themselves for higher prices when they purchase their favorite seasonal treats.

A nonprofit environmental group says cocoa costs three times more than it did a year ago because of climate change and the El Nino weather effect. Prices reached $8,000 per ton this week, compared with $2,500 last year at this time.

Amber Sawyer, a climate and energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, or ECIU, a U.K.-based nonprofit group, said the volatile weather patterns in the top cocoa-producing countries of Ghana and Ivory Coast have affected international commodity prices.

“Chocolate producers are trying to buy up cocoa, but there’s a reduced supply of it,” she said. “So obviously, because of the reduced supply, the demand has gone up, and the prices have therefore gone up for confectionery companies who make chocolate. These costs are now being fed through to consumers.”

Ghana and Ivory Coast, which produce nearly 60% of global cocoa, experienced heavy rains in December. Flooding caused crop damage and led to cocoa plants rotting with black pod disease.

Extreme heat has hurt, too.

“That’s affecting not only the crop, because it’s difficult to grow cocoa in these conditions, but also the farmers themselves,” Sawyer said.

“Farmers have gone from having too much rain to not enough rain, which means that they’re behind on production and unable to sell on the international markets,” she said.

Ghana has reduced its cocoa production estimate this year from 850,000 to 650,000 tons due to adverse weather conditions and smuggling.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization data show cocoa is grown in countries that are most vulnerable and less prepared to deal with climate change.

A U.K.-based World Weather Attribution website analysis released Thursday showed that West Africa experienced an intense heatwave in February, with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Izidine Pinto, a researcher with the Royal Netherlands Metrological Institute connected with the website, said the heatwaves and heavy rainfall affect people’s lives and jobs.

“Climate change is making rainfall heavier and heatwaves like these more intense,” he said. “These changes to extreme weather are making life more dangerous for people in West Africa. … This is damaging livelihoods … damaging crops and making food prices more expensive.”

Weather experts note that heatwaves used to occur once every 100 years before widespread fossil fuel burning, but in today’s climate, heatwaves happen once every 10 years.

African countries bear the brunt of climate change despite contributing the least to greenhouse gas emissions. The ECIU urges wealthier nations to offer financial and technical aid to assist farmers in managing the impact of severe weather and climate change.

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