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Climate change and greed: The real cost of chocolate

Climate change and greed: The real cost of your Easter treats
Climate change and greed: The real cost of your Easter treats

The cost of chocolate delights reached an all-time high this year, but the implications behind the price surge extend far beyond our wallets. In the heart of West Africa, the cocoa industry teeters on the brink, strained by climate change

But what does climate change have to do with our love for chocolate, and what does it reveal about the broader implications for global food production and ethical consumption?

Rising cost of indulgence

The chocolate industry’s recent price surges highlight the complexities of supply chain and logistics, while climate change triggers extreme weather events and the spread of devastating plant diseases.

A recent example: Sky News reports that the price of chocolate increased by 12.6% in 2024, which resulted in the price of Easter eggs increasing by more than 50%. According to the Which? supermarket food and drink inflation tracker, some treats – like Maltesers Truffles Luxury Easter Egg – spiked by 62.5%.

What is behind this enormous increase? It’s largely due to a perfect storm of factors impacting Ghana and the Ivory Coast’s cocoa production. Approximately 68% of the world’s cocoa supply comes from these two countries in West Africa. 

Climate change’s role

Heavy rainfall associated with the El Nino weather phenomenon has destroyed roads and infrastructure, preventing access to cocoa plantations. Meanwhile, diseases like the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD) and black pod disease have infected several plantations. 

According to research scientist Atta Ofori, CSSVD results in “significant production losses and death of cacao trees.” The only effective treatment is eradication, and more than 300 million diseased trees have been cut and replanted over the past 80 years. 

Meanwhile, phytophthora palmivora (or black pod rot) can destroy up to 90% of a plantation’s cocoa pods. According to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, a single infected pod can release 4 million sac-like structures carrying the disease. Hence, phytophthora translates as “plant destroyer.”

With all of these factors in place, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain the production levels needed to meet global demand.

The human cost of chocolate

Fueled by capitalism and humanity’s insatiable appetite to take without caring about the consequences, international chocolate producers in first-world countries prioritize short-term profit over meaningful change. This exacerbates the environmental impact and keeps cocoa farmers in poverty.

In addition to the environmental impacts, cocoa farmers are battling low output, high inflation, and currency devaluation. Dutch confectionery firm Tony’s Chocolonely estimates that many farmers in West Africa receive $1.73 per day, while women farmers are paid as little as 32 cents per day. 

This makes it impossible for farmers to rise above the cost of living, let alone eradicate and replace diseased trees. To make ends meet, many farmers have allowed illegal miners onto their land, which degrades the soil and water.

Companies like Tony’s Chocolonely, Ben & Jerry’s, ALDI, Albert Heijn, Jokolade, Vly Foods, and The Flower Farm are “putting their mouth where their cocoa is” by vowing to pay a higher price, helping farmers earn a living income.

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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