Of all the commodities to be impacted by high prices and export issues, why chocolate? It's a tragedy against the sweet life-blood of ... of... oh, just give me chocolate. Chocolate prices are increasing about seven to eight percent in the United States, due to commodity, transportation and manufacturing costs. Blame in part on the high cost of cocoa beans which has gone up 18% this year alone. M&M/MARS and Hershey's have responded by recently increasing their wholesale prices.
Other contributing factors are low yields in cocoa growing regions, combined with increased demand, strangely, because the American palate has shifted from what I call, "watered down milk-chocolate" to rich dark chocolate combinations. The change in tastes can be attributed to health studies in the past ten years, reporting that dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants which gives chocolate gluttons more reason to consume the sweet, tasty goodness with wild abandon.
High prices are not a great obstacle for U.S. sales, as Americans are notoriously willing to pay for such luxuries. None of that changes the fact that cocoa yields in regions like the Ivory Coast are very sensitive to changing weather patterns. Possible climate change could impact crops to the point of a significant loss of yield over the coming years, at which point we will be forced to find a substitute for heaven on earth.
Prices are likely to be impacted further as efforts to reduce the slave trade related to the harvesting of cocoa, gain more ground, which may result in fair compensation for cocoa farmers. To see more about the laborious process of harvesting cocoa, and the small proportion of income the farmers receive from the process, watch this revealing video. It's worth the full five minutes, and will cause you to appreciate chocolate all the more.
And for an example of the critical influence of chocolate in various cultures, watch my favorite SNL skit.