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Cocoa Price Hits All-Time High: Will Easter Chocolates Melt Away?

CC BY 2.0 / Shari's Berries / Handmade Chocolate covered Gray Sea Salted Caramels Handmade Chocolate covered Gray Sea Salted Caramels
  Handmade Chocolate covered Gray Sea Salted Caramels - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.03.2024
Two of the world's largest cocoa-producing nations have been grappling with bad weather, crop disease, and poor road infrastructure to transport the commodity to nearby ports for export.
Cocoa prices rose to a record $10,000 per ton on Tuesday, the first time the commodity broke above this mark.
The cost of cocoa has skyrocketed, more than doubling (+133%) since January, spurred on by the sharpest supply constraints in 40 years.
Adverse weather conditions and disease hit cocoa output in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world's largest producers, accounting for about 70 percent of production. Also, inadequate road infrastructure poses challenges in ferrying the existing beans to the port, according to a report by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO).
Ivorian government data released on Monday revealed that its cocoa farmers shipped 1.28 million metric tons (MMT) of the bean to ports between October 1, 2023, and March 24, 2024, a 28 percent decline from the same period last year.
On March 7, the country's cocoa sector regulator anticipated that Ivory Coast's mid-crop, which begins in April, would experience a 33-percent plunge to 400,000 from last year's 600,000 metric tons (MT).
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On Monday, Ghana's Cocoa Board (Cocobod) announced a sharp decline in cocoa harvest projections for the 2023-24 season. The estimated output is expected to be between 422,500 and 425,000 metric tons, marking a 22-year low. The mid-crop forecast for July has been reduced from 150,000 MT to 25,000 MT.

“As these two leading producing countries supply about two-thirds of global cocoa beans, any change in their production tends to have a significant impact on the cocoa market,” the ICCO said.

Cocoa is a versatile ingredient used in various chocolate products and confectioneries. Its by-products, including cocoa nibs, butter, pod husks, and pulp, are utilized in diverse industries like soft drinks, cosmetics, and health supplements.
With prices on the rise, chocolatiers are exploring cost-saving initiatives like reducing bar size, product diversification, or promoting chocolate varieties with substitute ingredients to mitigate the impact of rising costs.
Hershey's and other manufacturers prioritize selling non-cocoa products like cookies and cream and gummy bears to offset rising chocolate prices. Due to increased cocoa prices, the company expects stagnant earnings growth this year. Its Q4 net income was $349 million, down by roughly 12 percent from the previous year.

“As we look at those record cocoa prices, certainly it’s a dynamic market, and those are a challenge, but we have lived through market volatility and fluctuation in input costs before,” Hershey CEO Michele Buck told CNBC in February.

In 2023, Mondelez International, which owns popular brands such as Cadbury, Oreo, and Toblerone, has pushed up chocolate prices by nearly 15 percent. The company has indicated its willingness to continue this strategy in order to meet revenue targets for the year.
With cocoa prices on the rise, chocolate candies are expected to remain the top choice among Americans, in line with current trends as reported by Axios.
Though chocolate manufacturers have recently raised prices on Easter eggs and bunnies, sales for chocolate this Easter are projected to provide a temporary relief for the industry.
According to a Numerator survey of 5,132 consumers, Easter is the second most popular holiday for candy purchases after Halloween. Additionally, a report by the National Confectioners Association reveals that 92 percent of Easter-celebrating Americans indulge in chocolate and candy.
“Chocolate may be even more expensive in Easter 2025, if cocoa-tree diseases and inclement weather prolong the deficit amid high sugar prices,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Diana Gomes said in a note on Friday.
Experts suggest that forthcoming European Union regulations designed to prevent the sale of products linked to deforestation could exacerbate the supply challenges faced by the EU's leading chocolate manufacturers.
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