Chocolate

Act Now; Eat Later

By The Old Professor

Amid toil and tragedy we worry: an errant meteor, the growing insect population, an alien invasion, evil computer viruses, the return of ado- lescent acne, unzipped flies, and landfills coming to life and swallowing cities. It isn’t easy to ignore a potential economic crash or the chance of nuclear war. But a major threat looms that will change our lives forever: a chocolate shortage.

Recent reports predict a shortage by 2020 and the disappearance of chocolate entirely by 2050. Imagine the consequences: no hot cocoa on a frosty morn; no declaration of love in a heart shaped box; no mid-afternoon morsel; empty Whitman Samplers; no smooth, sweet comfort for broken hearts; no bars from Lindt, Cadbury, or Godiva; no Hershey’s kisses, no Bosco, no Milk Duds; no chocolate covered cherries, straw- berries, raisins, or macadamia nuts; no bunny ears to snap off at Easter; no chocolate ice cream, dip cones, tootsie rolls, or creme de cacao; no Oreos; no brownies, or chocolate donuts, or chocolate chip cookies; no chocolate mouse, no coating on Mounds, Snickers, or mint patties; no chocolate center in M&M’s. The list goes on. The frontier of innocent pleasure will be sacrificed. Chocolate is not a treat; it’s a necessity.

But beyond the crippling losses above will be an overarching tragedy–No Hot Fudge Sundaes! Yes, ice cream is good. Whipped cream is lovely. The cherry on top adds an aesthetic touch, and the nuts sprinkled about a tactile variety. But it is the thick, rich, sweet, dark brown fudge oozing down the sides that makes the confection nearly divine. Eat too quickly, it’s gone too soon; too
slow, it will melt and begin to drip down the sides of the dish.

In my soda jerky youth behind the counter at Frank Wells Rexall Drug Store we offered cold fudge sundaes as well. Cold fudge was lighter, thicker, and slower to slide down the ice cream. I recall it being sweeter and a tad more bitter than hot fudge. But comparison was silly; we didn’t have to choose. Both delighted. Cold fudge may be a thing of the past. There is no reference to it on Google. That is a loss for humankind.

But what of this shortage? While Snopes argues that we not panic so far in advance, the fundamental facts are clear. In Central America fruity pod rot, a fungus, had decreased the cocoa crop by 96 percent 30-plus years ago. Recovery has not come. Heroic efforts to hybridize resistant varieties have been underway, but as yet offer insufficient hope.

The overwhelming majority of cocoa beans come from Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Temperatures there have risen and rainfall has diminished. Half the beans are too small for quality standards. They contain too little cocoa butter and too much acid. Growers can’t prosper and are dropping out. The result is an 180,000-ton shortage.

Yet demand for chocolate is rising. Demand now exceeds supply and prices are up. The new affluence in India and China will increase demand as consumers with money discover the joys of chocolate. Unwilling just to rely on market adjustments Mars, the candy company, has pledged $1 billion for research at UC Berkeley, using new CRISPR technology to modify cacao tree’s DNA in the hope of creating hardier varieties.

Some authorities predict other shortages including wine and even bacon. Weather in France, and fires in California have diminished grape harvests. But past surpluses have created reserves. Pork belly demand is up. A temporary December shortage in the UK kept MacDonalds from offering Egg McMuffins. But experts say that enough pigs are being bred.

Chocolate producers can offer no such assurance. Chocolate lovers, we must stockpile. Park the car outside. Thousands of chocolate bars can rest in a garage. What’s a man cave com- pared to a chocolate collection? You don’t really need that second bathroom. Take turns. Fill the tub with kisses. Grab all the chocolate at the drug store and super market.

Start today before everybody empties Amazon’s warehouses. Get there before the hoarders show up.

Written while sucking on a tootsie pop by David H. Smith, Ph.D., retired professor.