Now that the Ebola genie has escaped Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, and the fears that the disease will spread throughout western Africa are becoming more real by the day, the one world market commodity that will be put in jeopardy if outbreaks strike Ghana and Ivory Coast is near and dear to women of child-bearing years everywhere: chocolate.
For now, the region of the world that produces more than two thirds of the world’s supply of cocoa is operating without interruption. Â However, chocolatiers everywhere are keeping an eye on Ebola.
The uncertainty about cocoa supplies, meanwhile, is causing some jitters among chocolate-related industries around the world, and concerns about chocolate prices….
Most major confectioners in the U.S. are reluctant to talk about how a potential cocoa shortage might directly affect them — but chocolate giant Hershey did offer some perspective, saying the company is in close contact with its cocoa suppliers in West Africa over the Ebola outbreak and its potential impact on cocoa supplies.
“Our suppliers have assured us they will be able to continue to supply our cocoa orders without interruption, even if the disease begins to impact the major cocoa-growing countries in the region,” Jeff Beckman, Hershey’s director of corporate communications, tells CBS MoneyWatch.
On the one hand, that is quite comforting. Â Our access to chocolate will not be abridged. Â On the other, who wants to eat something that originates in a country where one of the most deadly diseases known today is spreading even if processing the product involves fermenting and cooking the beans.
Another concern aside from mass loss of human life, is price. Â If Ebola spreads to the cocoa producing states in west Africa, production may not stop, but the product is going to be a lot more expensive if labor has to be imported. Â In addition, that many more people will be exposed to the disease and it will spread even further when workers return home. Â If the United States and Europe are not equipped to deal with outbreaks, western Africa is considerably less so.
Just another reason why containing Ebola was and is so important. Â Chocolate just happens to be the first commodity to surface with fears of the disease’s spread interrupting production. Â There are bound to be more in countries dependent on agriculture exported to the rest of us for their economic well-being that will be affected.