Chocolate woes set to last beyond Easter as weather takes toll on cocoa harvests

Easter is set to be just the beginning of chocolate lovers’ woes after cocoa prices soared to a new record following poor harvests caused by unusual weather.

The cocoa bean traded above 10,000 dollars (£7,900) a tonne on world commodity markets on Tuesday, with prices having already doubled in 2024.

Last week, the price of cocoa beans hit more than 8,200 dollars (approximately £6,500) per tonne – up from 2,600 dollars this time last year.

Some popular Easter eggs from brands including Maltesers, Lindt and Cadbury cost at least 50% more than a year ago while others have shrunk in size, according to a study by consumer group Which?.

The overall price of chocolate has increased by 12.6% in a year – significantly more than the 5.6% rise seen on supermarket food and drink generally, according to the Which? supermarket food and drink inflation tracker.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), an environmental non-profit organisation, has set out how the combination of climate change and El Nino conditions have helped drive up cocoa prices ahead of Easter.

The world’s largest cocoa exporters – Ivory Coast and Ghana – have been hit by extreme weather in recent months.

According to an analysis from World Weather Attribution last week, climate change made a February heatwave in West Africa 10 times more likely.

Ivory Coast and Ghana saw heavy rains in December 2023, with total precipitation more than double the 30-year average for the time of year, which affected yields due to issues like cocoa plants rotting with black pod disease.

Bars of chocolate
The overall price of chocolate has increased by 12.6% in a year (Philip Toscano/PA)

The wet conditions were followed by droughts typical of El Nino conditions in February, which further decimated yields due to cocoa being a drought-sensitive crop, the ECIU said.

In a report released on Thursday, the ECIU noted that the effects of this volatile weather “has fed through to international commodity prices”.

Analysts have said price hikes seen for chocolate products this Easter are likely to be part of a longer trend.

Marco Forgione, director general at The Institute of Export and International Trade, said the price of cocoa has increased by 245% year on year.

He said: “As many people across the UK, and the rest of the world, look forward to tucking into their Easter chocolate this year, few of us are likely to stop and think about the intricate supply chain required to get the ingredients to us.

“Over the past few months, we’ve seen the weaponisation of fragile global supply chains which has caused significant disruption due to events such as the ongoing situation in the Red Sea, wider global geopolitical uncertainty and a variety of updates to border policies.

“Combined with the impact of climate change – which has significantly dampened this year’s cocoa harvest – the price of chocolate is soaring.

“These ripples across global supply chains are being felt by consumers with the price of one of the nation’s most popular chocolate bars, Freddo, reaching the height of 36p this year – up by 150%.

“The cost-of-living crisis continues to hit consumers in the pocket. General food inflation this year is running at over 7% but chocolate is over 30 times higher.”