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Bittersweet mix in chocolate price

Although chocolate prices are predicted to soar worldwide, local chocolate makers say they remain in a sweet spot – for now at least.

As noted by Wairarapa-based Lucid chocolate maker Johnty Tatham, Ivory Coast and Ghana – which produce nearly 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa – have more than doubled their prices for cacao beans in the past year, thanks to problems associated with three years of poor harvests [with a fourth expected] leading to a “massive shortage” of beans and “out of hand” price increases.

The price of cacao has absolutely skyrocketed, Tatham said, from US$2.8 per kilo last year to US$8 per kilo this year.

The two main factors causing the shortage were a disease on the roots of cacao trees that has been killing them at a “pretty alarming rate”, and cocoa pod disease that’s causing them to rot, Tatham said.

The three years it’ll take the dwindling number of cacao trees to begin increasing again in Africa will have long term implications.

However, the price increase may not necessarily directly affect small bean to bar makers like himself, Tatham said, as the African producers who have imposed the biggest price increases distribute “most” of their cacao beans to the big players in the industry like Hershey’s, Mars, Cadbury, and Whitakers.

But although it doesn’t “directly” affect his business because he buys cacao beans from Peru, Tatham said there will be a flow-on effect.

“Now those big players are going to other markets and other parts of the world, buying up all the cacao,” he said.

“We are only at the beginning of this saga.”

Nonetheless, Tatham is confident his chocolate bar prices will remain the same as he was well-stocked to wait it out.

He expects supermarket chocolate prices to rise, but not “significantly” as it won’t match the scaling prices of cacao, which are sometimes only 30 percent of the product.

Meanwhile, Greytown’s Schoc Chocolates owner Murray Langham said that last year, nationwide prices for chocolate went up about three times in a couple of months.

Langham said he primarily buys chocolate through agents who source beans from around the world – including Tanzania, Cuba, Ecuador, and Ghana – and is not a “bean to bar” producer.

Cocoa prices may have doubled, Langham said, but his “business is not paying double”, and it hasn’t made much difference – “yet”.

He said the additional costs have either been absorbed elsewhere or haven’t filtered through to him yet.

Not surprisingly, Easter time is lucrative for chocolate makers and Langham said he’s currently “tracking well”, selling 100kg of chocolate per week.

“When there’s a depression and something like that, cosmetics and chocolate seem to go up, the sales go up,” he said.

“People want to treat themselves occasionally a bit more, and it’s a small thing that they can purchase.”

Langham said the major costs for his business include wages, rent, power, and other ‘hidden’ costs.

At this point, Langham is “not that concerned” about rising cacao bean prices but will increase his prices of chocolate if necessary.

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