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A Looming Chocolate Shortage May Change The World As You Know It

Prepare to panic, because a looming cocoa shortage is threatening human rights to chocolate, the noted key to happiness.

How could this horror of horrors possibly happen, you ask? Well as it turns out, if you eat enough of something, there is less of it. Chocolate, like other luxuries, is not an infinite resource.

Here’s what you should know about the issue, how it may affect your future, and what could be done to salvage and savor the beloved Forest Gump-approved confection.

1. The rate at which humans are devouring delicious treats is outpacing that at which cocoa is being produced. For example, in 2013 the world consumed about 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than was harvested.  

If a world run by artificial intelligence and ravaged by global warming isn’t enough to scare you, subtract chocolate from the equation, and the situation becomes exponentially less bearable.

By 2020, it’s expected that consumption will outpace production by a stunning one million metric tons — a fourteen fold increase.

2. We have entered the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficit in 50 years.

It may not be quite the same as entering another Cold War, but you won’t be crazy for admitting it could be equally tense.

Take the holidays, for example: without chocolate, traditions like trick or treating, stockings, and the Easter Bunny are completely nuts, both literally and metaphorically.

3. Who is at fault? For convenience sake, you can blame climate change, and China, and Ebola.

[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”jOw9GcDp5wG2vnT2OaMMTUdNC6q7L4P7″]Someone must be at fault, here, or else there must be a scapegoat for which chocoholics might direct their understandable ire. Luckily, there are many sources of potential blame: for one, the confection’s explosive popularity in China, which will be Hershey’s second-largest market by 2017. India and Brazil’s appetite for chocolate is also growing.

A warming planet has also brought severe drought to West Africa, which responsible for nearly three quarters of the world’s cocoa.

But if any of that feels unfair, just go ahead and blame 2014’s biggest villain: the Ebola virus. Even if the virus’ impacts on cocoa plantation are minimal so far, everyone already detests it.

4. Realistically, this probably won’t mean chocolate is gone forever.

But it will mean smaller chocolates, more expensive chocolates, and chocolates that are less cocoa, and more flavor chemical and vegetable fat. No thank you, please.

Cadbury has already reduced its chocolate bar by 10 percent, and prices in general have risen 60 percent since 2012.

5. Farmers are looking into genetically altered cacao plants to make it all better.

There may still be hope, due to science, and those willing to prioritize chocolate over other important global concerns. No, it’s not a chocolate factory a la Rhode Dahl’s fantasies.

Instead, farmers are investing in new strains of cocoa that have immunity to some harmful and silly-named fungi called “witches broom” and “frosty pod rot,” along with yielding more beans at a time.

The results have been a mixed bag (of candy) so far, with one strain called CCN51 described as tasting of “acidic dirt.” Another strain, R-1, R-4, and R-6, are much more promising due to their sweet, fruity, and nutty notes.

6. Another crazy idea: We all could eat less chocolate.

The horrible hypocrisy of all this complaining is that cocoa farm conditions are dangerous, and have been compared to slavery due to their employment of young children. Though some efforts have been made to challenge this, it’s still an issue, as is the poverty of workers.

At the end of the day, perspective is important. Many of us love chocolate, and as much as we like to point our pudgy fingers at China and Ebola, the supply and demand issues are no one’s fault but our own.

Not to mention, the sugar additives in Western chocolate are really, really bad for the human body, even if dark chocolate is good for the heart.

In this sobering light, perhaps resolutions for our own health, resourcefulness, and better discipline can limit our intake of the most beloved candy — which is after all, not a right but a privilege — to savor the sweetness a little bit longer.

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Jennifer Markert