ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- We know there's no shortage of serious stories in the news these days, but for a lot of you – well, you might want to sit down.
We are running out of chocolate.
Some of the biggest candy companies now project that unless something is done to increase supply, the world will be looking at a major chocolate shortage by the year 2050.
It was hard news to hear for folks indulging their sweet tooth at Sweet Divas, a local chocolate maker in St. Petersburg.
“Say it's not so,” laughed Donna Weaver, “I mean, chocolate is my life!”
But it's no laughing matter at all for major chocolate producers like M&M Mars, which is now predicting a chocolate shortage over the next two to three decades.
The cacao crop, they say, is threatened by climate change, growing demand, even a fungus that could spell doom for the Sweet Divas, or for that matter, anyone loco for cocoa.
“As a manufacturer of it for our local store, we are very interested in keeping the quality up as well as the supply,” said Christy Herrmann, owner of Sweet Divas.
To save chocolate, big companies are now teaming up with scientists – not only to beat the fungus, but to change chocolate's DNA.
“Whether it is people, or trees or whatever, there will be more bacteria and things coming from our environment or into our environment that require us to adapt,” she said
Scientists at University of California Berkeley are working on genetic splicing that will allow cacao to flourish in warmer, drier climates of Western Africa, where about half the world's cocoa comes from.
Farmers, who've continued to move to higher altitudes to plant their crops, are running out of room because much of the land is preserved for endangered animals.
Scientists are also working on imitation chocolate.
“They're already dabbling with that sort of thing,” said Herrmann, “and then it's up to you whether or not it's something you want to try.”
With supply down and demand higher than ever, even short-term chocolate prices could start to rise, and the biggest chocolate day of the year -- Valentine's Day -- is just around the corner.
It's estimated people will spend a little over $1.7 billion on candy this year – and a lot of it – will be chocolate.
They're working on a fix, but for now, it could be a less than sweet forecast for one of the world's favorite fixes.
“Chocolate is my guilty pleasure. That's for sure,” said customer Kim Harding.
“I might go into rapid decline if chocolate disappeared,” laughed Weaver. “Along with many people, I'm sure!”
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