Savour your chocolates this Christmas because they could soon become a rarity. A cocoa crisis is brewing which threatens to push up the price of the dark stuff in coming years and could make the humble chocolate bar a pricey delicacy.
A growing taste for cocoa in places like China, along with the rising popularity of dark chocolate which has some proven health benefits, are to blame. Experts predict the shortage of cocoa could worsen to a million tonnes within eight years.
An area as large as the Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, would need to be cultivated to plug the shortage.
Angus Kennedy, editor of trade publication Kennedy's Confection, told The Express: "Part of the problem is the growing demand for chocolate in Asia where countries such as China are turning more towards Western tastes."
He fears that if producers are not given more help to boost cocoa bean crops, chocolate will be pushed into the delicacy price bracket - and chocolate lovers will have to make do with less appealing chocolate flavour substitutes that "don't melt in your mouth". Manufacturers may end up putting more nuts and other fillers in your chocolate bars.
"In 20 years chocolate will be like caviar," predicts John Mason, founder of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council. "It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won't be able to afford it."