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Prices to rise as chocolate production dries up

Caroline Floyd

Sunday, March 27, 2016, 3:44 PM - Chocoholics may want to stock up on some after-Easter sales this year as cocoa prices are set to rise, thanks in part to world weather events.

Cocoa prices have already doubled in the past ten years, and that upward trend seems set to continue as commodity futures have continued their upward climb the past few months.

The heart of the world's chocolate production lies in western Africa, with Ghana and Ivory Coast combining to supply 60 per cent of the world's cocoa supply. The Gulf of Guinea may seem a long way from the central Pacific, but El Niño's impact can also be felt in the region - particularly in the case of the phenomenon's 2015-2016 incarnation, one of the strongest on record. While the oscillation's effects on the continent are less direct than those on South and North America, links between El Niño and conditions in other parts of the world - known as teleconnections - shed light on the cause and effect.

In this case, disruptions to atmospheric and oceanic conditions over Indonesia have a ripple effect on similar cycles over the Indian Ocean, which in turn have an impact on rainfall and temperatures over Africa. The Indian Ocean is also home to its own major sea temperature oscillation known as the Indian Ocean Dipole; interactions between the two phenomena likely had a strong influence on weather conditions over central Africa through the end of 2015 and early 2016.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which monitors the impact of El Niño in various parts of the world, reported:

Average monthly temperatures in the Western coastal countries were around 2 degrees Celsius higher than the average in December 2015 and January 2016 in West Africa. At the same time, the amount of rainfall in the Gulf of Guinea was below average, and was likely to remain low until March/April 2016. The outlook for the first and second trimester in 2016 also predicts moderately higher than normal temperatures in Western parts of the region.

Drought conditions across central Africa in autumn 2015 highlight dry weather in Ghana and Ivory Coast - home to much of the world's chocolate supply. Image from the Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI)

El Niño's an influence much closer to home to other top cocoa producers. Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Brazil all appear on the list of the world's top ten suppliers.

With the world's weather patterns changing, and demand spiking as India and China join the ranks of chocoholics, the world may have to get inventive to preserve one of our favorite crops, though thus far the results aren't so encouraging. Chocolatier Jacques Torres told CNBC, "By planting more, we find new hybrid of cocoa, and by doing that we lose some quality. So the price of the very high-end chocolates rises even more."

Sources: NewsFix | CNBC | Norwich Bulletin | SPEI Global Drought Monitor | Accuweather | OCHA |

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