How much chocolate does it cost me? The effects of climate change on the finger

4 min read

Bad news for chocolate lovers: not only will we pay more for it, but in the future we will also have to resign ourselves to having less and less of it. Climate change is to blame in Côte d’Ivoire, where droughts and flash floods are alternating. It’s like the flapping of the wings of the Beijing butterfly that generates a hurricane in New York: an African country slightly larger than Italy is in fact the creator of the increases in shopping carts all over the world.

In 2023 the price of cocoa beans jumped by 62%. After extra virgin olive oil, Areté analysts recall, is the agricultural commodity that has increased the most this year. A nice increase in cost for companies that produce chocolate.

Giovanni Agostoni represents the third generation of the family at the helm of Icam, which in 80 years has gone from an artisan workshop in Valtellina to two industrial chocolate factories and over 200 million euros in turnover. «I remember very well that 13 years ago, when I joined the company, cocoa had reached 2,300 pounds per ton on the London stock exchange. It was the apocalypse, they said, an unprecedented increase in history: on average, it had always been bought for 1,600 pounds. We hadn’t seen anything yet: today, in London, cocoa sells for 3,500 pounds.” The world produces 5 million tons of cocoa per year and 2.3 million of these come from Ivory Coast. «The second world producer is Ghana – says Agostoni – but it only produces 700 thousand tons. It’s clear that the Ivorians set the price.”

The ax of climate change

A lot is happening in Côte d’Ivoire. The cocoa plantations are aging and there has not yet been the right turnover. During the last season there was a lack of fertilizers due to the war in Ukraine. But most of all there is a climate issue: the alternation of periods of drought with periods of excessively heavy rain have made the plants ill, and they now produce less. «The main harvest – explains Agostoni – which has just begun in Africa and will end in March, and which alone is worth 1.8 million tonnes, is expected to decrease by 25%. On a global scale, it means having 11% less cocoa available». The new EU legislation for the protection of forests will also complicate the supply picture: once it comes into force, it will no longer be possible to import raw materials produced from land subject to deforestation after 2020 into Europe.

The cocoa crisis, however, is not just an emergency of 2023. It started before, and is here to stay for a long time. «The increase in the price of beans will not be a one-off – claims Janluca de Waijer, who has been at the helm of Domori, one of the excellent brands of cocoa made in Italy and part of Riccardo Illy’s Taste hub – the productivity of the plantations is decreasing, amidst drought and floods. And now it’s done too the fear of the effects of El Niño, the first consequence of which was to increase speculation on already high prices». At Domori they are calm for now, in the warehouses they have stocks for 10 or even 12 months. But cocoa accounts for more than half of their production costs and choices need to be made for the future: «We’re not considering producing less – says de Waijer – because at the moment our demand is growing. Of course, finding spot raw materials, beyond those optioned, will increasingly be an adventure, and we will only understand how much the prices will increase further at the end of the year, with the closing of the new contracts. But one thing is for sure: consumers must prepare to pay more for chocolate».

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