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Reprinted by permission, The Guardian May
Start hoarding now. A new strain of the lethal black pod disease is threatening more than a million tons of cocoa, leading food experts from the world's biggest confectioners to predict a world shortage of chocolate. Yesterday a leading restauranteur warned that chocolate desserts could soon cost the same as a main course.
"There will always be chocolate, it will just be damned expensive," said Eamon Roche, co-owner of New York bistro, Kiosk. "Every restaurant, however humble, has to have at least one chocolate dessert, but it may be the price of a filet mignon."
The threat to chocolate supplies does not come solely from an outbreak of black pod disease in the Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer. In Brazil, another major producer, a fungus known as Witches Broom has been attacking cacao trees. "There are diseases in South America that are threatening to wipe out the industry there," said Jim Gockowski, an agricultural economist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
The situation is so grave that in an unusual display of corporate cooperation, executives from manufacturers Nestlé, Cadbury, M&M/Mars, and Hershey have held urgent talks on the problem.
While worldwide demand continues to grow, rainforest, in whose shade cacao trees thrive, is being decimated. "We may be going back to the turn of the century," said Mr. Roche, "where chocolate was the preserve of the rich. It could be a chocolate-free millennium."
© Copyright 1998 by The American