- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2014

Snag those Easter bunny chocolate deals before they’re gone. Market costs of cocoa — and consequently, chocolate — are soaring to such highs that some industry insiders predict its price per pound will soon rival that of top-end champagne.

Chocolate as an “unaffordable” luxury? It’s true, Edward George, head of agricultural commodities at the pan-African firm Ecobank, said during a recent CNBC appearance.

Referring to two recent hikes in cocoa bean costs that have driven the price up by 30 percent, Mr. Geoge said chocolate could become “a bit like champagne — something which is a luxury, but not all of us can afford.”

Cost hikes are being blamed on bad weather that hit cocoa farmers hard — and on growing demand from China, CNBC reported.

About one-tenth of milk chocolate bars come from the cocoa bean. But dark chocolate contains much more — up to 80 percent of the ingredients. In the U.S. alone, chocolate prices rose 7 percent in just the past year. Prices of higher-end chocolate-based candies sold in overseas markets such as Singapore have soared by as much as 40 percent in recent months.

Mr. George predicted a watering of the cocoa-based recipe was on the way, with manufacturers turning to palm oil and cotton seed oil as a cheaper alternative to cocoa butter.

“If you put in too much substitutes, you are not allowed to call it chocolate,” he told CNBC.

Prices for cocoa are presently at a four-year high of $3.195 per ton.

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