Willy Wonka might go broke building his chocolate river today.
Chocolate has never been hotter. As people in India and China develop a taste for the sweet, chocolate demand is jumping. The Wall Street Journal reported that cocoa processors in Asia ground up 5.2 percent more beans in the second quarter of this year compared with the same period a year ago.
But there’s a problem: While chocolate is getting more popular, cocoa, its main ingredient, is getting harder to find. Cocoa hit $3,234 per ton last week on the commodities market, the highest price in three years. In response, candy kings Mars and Hershey’s jacked up the prices for their U.S. chocolate products by 7 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
Behind the cocoa shortage is a rebellion of sorts by some of the farmers in West Africa, ground zero for the world’s cocoa production. According to The Guardian, cocoa farmers have seen their cut of the sale price of a chocolate bar drop from around 16 percent in the 1980s to a mere 3.5 to 6.4 percent. Manufacturers keep 70 percent of sales, with retailers pocketing another 17 percent. This meager return has forced many cocoa farmers to abandon the trade for more lucrative industries, which has resulted in lower cocoa yields.
Currently, the Ivory Coast is the leading exporter of cocoa, with Ghana in second place. The two countries are responsible for 60 percent of the global cocoa production, according to Reuters. Ghanaian farmers are known to smuggle their cocoa into the Ivory Coast, where they can get much more for their crops. The smuggling takes revenue out of the Ghanaian economy, which reduces that country’s ability to build infrastructure for its cocoa industry and in turn makes it harder to supply the world’s chocolate makers.
But the craziest part of it all is that most of these cocoa farmers are so disconnected from the Marses of the world that they don’t even know where their beans are going—and have never even actually tasted chocolate. Check out this video of cocoa farmers from the Ivory Coast trying the confection for the first time.