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    Easter egg prices soar as cocoa costs spike

    (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

    Since last Easter, chocolate prices have increased by more than 12.6 per cent, more than double the rise in other food and drink prices, state recent reports, citing rising cost of cocoa as the main factor.

    According to recent reports, cost of cocoa has been increasing all year, hitting a record high just before Valentine’s Day and again this week, when it was priced at more than £7900 a tonne – meaning it is currently more valuable than several precious metals, and growing in value more quickly than bitcoin.

    Increasing costs stem from a cocoa shortage in west Africa, in particular Ghana and Ivory Coast, where more than half of the world’s cocoa beans are harvested. According to experts, the shortage is explained by interconnected factors including climate-related weather events and exploitation inherent in the cocoa industry.

    “The [agricultural] challenges include various pests and diseases of cocoa, ageing trees on many farms, declining soil fertility and more variable and extreme weather events resulting from climate change,” The Guardian quoted Dr Andrew Damyond of the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading, as saying.

    “The El Niño event of the past year has meant the rainy season in west Africa has been wetter than usual, which likely contributed to greater losses of cocoa pods to pod rot in west Africa.”

    “Whether or not the shortfall will continue in the coming months or years is very difficult to predict. However, with more frequent extreme weather events, there is likely to be greater year-to-year fluctuations in cocoa farm yields.”

    Price increases mainly affect manufacturers buying commodity cocoa, used in almost all mass-produced chocolate products. The spike is also impacting craft chocolatiers in the UK, many of whom already pay and charge more for high quality and ethically sourced ingredients, the ripple effects are being felt.

    Dr Michael Odijie, who has been researching cocoa farming conditions in west Africa at University College London, said a historic focus on keeping consumer prices low had contributed to long-term exploitation.

    “I believe chocolate products are too cheap, resulting in cocoa farmers not earning enough to sustainably cultivate cocoa. Many problems in cocoa farming stem from this, including child labour and child trafficking as well as unsustainable cultivation methods,” he said.

    “Farmers are not earning a living wage, all because chocolate manufacturers desire to keep chocolate cheap for consumers. There is enough research to demonstrate that, in a way, chocolate is being subsidised by the children of west Africa.”

     CEO of Netherlands-based Tony’s Chocolonely has reportedly declared earlier that the company supported higher costs if it means more money going to farmers.

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