West Africa’s cocoa crisis drives chocolate prices higher

Cacao harvesting theme. Orange color cocoa pods hanging on tree in sunlight

The once-thriving cocoa farms of West Africa, particularly those in Ghana and Ivory Coast, are facing a set of severe challenges, which is driving a sharp rise in chocolate prices worldwide. Accounting for over 60% of the global cocoa supply, these nations are witnessing catastrophic declines in harvests as a result of illegal gold mining, climate change, mismanagement, and the spread of disease.

One shocking example is Janet Gyamfi’s farm in Ghana’s Western Region, where illegal mining operations have decimated her cocoa plantation – leaving her with fewer than a dozen trees. She once had almost 6,000. The widespread practice, known locally as galamsey, has not only destroyed Gyamfi’s livelihood but also left her land contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Compounding the crisis, Ghana’s cocoa marketing board, Cocobod, reports that 590,000 hectares of cocoa plantations have been infected with the swollen shoot virus, a disease with devastating effects on crop yield and longevity. Overall production in Ghana is anticipated to plummet to 580,000 tonnes this year, which would represent a significant decline from previous seasons.

The situation is further exacerbated by the suspension of crucial support from Cocobod, including the distribution of fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the failure to rejuvenate aging cocoa stocks effectively. Illegal mining is also hindering efforts to rehabilitate affected plantations, with miners encroaching on newly rehabilitated farms.

In Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producer, the scenario is similarly parlous, with an estimated 30% of plantations likely infected by the swollen shoot virus. The sector’s challenges are further compounded by climate change, with researchers predicting significant reductions in suitable cocoa growing areas in the coming decades.

The crisis in West Africa is expected to reshape the global cocoa market, potentially elevating Latin American countries such as Ecuador to more prominent positions in cocoa production. However, the transition will not offset the immediate shortfall in supply, leading to sustained high prices for chocolate.

This unfolding catastrophe not only impacts global chocolate consumers but also spells disaster for millions of small-scale farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast, whose livelihoods are in jeopardy. The decline in cocoa production in these countries highlights the urgent need for comprehensive interventions to address the multifaceted challenges facing the cocoa sector.

Add Fertilizer Daily to your followed sources to get market news first  

Enjoyed the story?

Once a week, our subscribers get their hands first on hottest fertilizer and agriculture news. Don’t miss it!