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How Much Should Chocolate Cost?

Have you noticed that prices for cocoa powder and chocolate have gone up recently?  One of the members of the Baker’s Dozen, San Francisco group was shocked when he priced a 4-1/2 pound pail of cacao recently.

Sticker shock should be no surprise.  There’s a horrendous political standoff in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) that began with elections in November, but that doesn’t appear to be getting any closer to resolution.  Electricity and water were cut off to half the country recently and food shortages loom.

An article posted by Jaelith Judy in Care2.com explains part of the issue in The True Price of Chocolate.  I think it’s interesting that some candy makers are inserting air bubbles into the chocolate coatings for candy to keep from raising prices.

Jaelith brings up an important point in her article by pointing out that workers on cacao plantations make roughly 80 cents a day.  I suspect that there are many who make less.  And one of the less pleasant jobs in the cacao industry is the fermentation process necessary to get the cacao beans ready to be turned into luscious chocolate.  Hot, smelly and miserable work.

But there’s something else I find interesting about this unfolding drama.  Just as President-elect Alassane Ouattara called for a ban on cacao exports in an attempt to weaken ex-President Gbagbo’s economic power, the Atlantic Tramp sailed into Camden New Jersey with 18,600 metric tons of cacao beans, the largest volume ever to arrive in one ship load.  The ship carried three times the normal load of cacao carriers.

All of the cacao was purchased by Blommer Chocolate, North America’s largest cocoa processor.

Roughly 40% of the cacao beans we use comes from the Ivory CoastWe’ve just received a huge shipment that should last at least six months.  There is strong speculation that the political impasse should be over before then.  Why then, are the prices skyrocketing in the futures market?  And why is it that this increase in cost won’t trickle down to the small farmers on collectives who grow this valuable crop for us?

Patricia Rain
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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.

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