Cocoa prices hit record high ahead of Easter due to ‘climate change and El Nino’

By Staff

The price of cocoa beans hit a record high of £6,500 per tonne this week

Ahead of Easter, cocoa prices have skyrocketed due to the effects of climate change and the El Nino phenomenon, research reveals.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-profit organisation focussed on the environment, has explained that these two factors have caused cocoa prices to surge before the Easter holiday at the end of March. This week the cost of cocoa beans reached a record high of more than £6,500 per tonne.

The world’s largest cocoa sellers, Ivory Coast and Ghana, have experienced extreme weather lately. A World Weather Attribution analysis published on Thursday indicated that February’s heatwave in West Africa was ten times more probable because of climate change.

These countries faced heavy rainfall in December 2023, causing more than double the average precipitation for the season over the past 30 years, which adversely affected the amount of cocoa harvested due to cocoa plants rotting with black pod disease.

This wet weather was followed by droughts typical of El Nino conditions in February, further reducing the harvest as cocoa is sensitive to dry conditions, according to the ECIU. The ECIU acknowledged that these unpredictable weather occurrences “has fed through to international commodity prices”.

Almost all of the world’s cocoa – 99.9% – is grown in countries that are most at risk and least prepared to deal with the harsh impacts of climate change, according to the ECIU. They used data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The ECIU also looked at UK Government trade data and the University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index. They found that the UK imported 58 million kilograms of cocoa beans worth £127m directly from these countries. Eighty five per cent of all the UK’s cocoa beans come from just one country – Ivory Coast.

Amber Sawyer, who works as an analyst at the ECIU, said that farmers will need more help to protect their jobs and keep cocoa beans – and other important foods like tea, bananas and rice – coming to the UK.

“Farmers in West Africa who grow the main ingredient, cocoa beans, of the Easter eggs many of us are looking forward to are struggling in the face of both extreme heat and extremes in rainfall,” she said. “Wealthy nations like the UK can provide financial and technical support to developing countries to help their farmers better cope with these extremes. Ultimately, if we’re to stop these extremes getting ever worse, we have to reach net zero emissions.”

Meanwhile, Ben Clarke, who researches Climate Data for Extreme Weather at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said: “El Nino years often lead to challenges for farmers through changing patterns of weather.”

Climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is making natural disasters worse, causing extreme weather, devastating harvests and increasing food prices. Jon Walker, a senior advisor for cocoa at Fairtrade, said: “While high prices may seem like a windfall for farmers, once they eventually filter through to the farmgate, the underlying causes are worrying.”

“Higher prices offset by lower productivity simply perpetuates the income insecurity that keeps farmers trapped in poverty and threatens the future of cocoa. It remains to be seen if supply will bounce back, or whether the current trend will be longer-lasting. To make progress on environmental and living income goals, stable minimum prices and long-term contracts between buyers and cocoa producers are necessary.”

El Nino, a natural phenomenon that brings heat to the surface of the ocean in the tropical eastern Pacific, can add to the warming effect of greenhouse gas emissions.

The ECIU report warned that this combination is threatening other staple foods imported to the UK from affected countries, such as rice from India, coffee from Vietnam, tea from Kenya, grapes from South Africa, bananas from Colombia and limes from Brazil. from Kenya, grapes from South Africa, bananas from Colombia and limes from Brazil.

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