The price of cocoa has soared since the beginning of the year and is hitting a new record price every day. On Tuesday it even crossed the $10,000 per ton mark, while a year ago the price was below $3,000.

Nevertheless, the farmers involved in the cultivation of cocoa cannot live from their work. They have been suffering from poverty, malnutrition and child labor for decades.

Just two countries, Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa, produce almost two-thirds of the cocoa grown worldwide. Despite this excellent position, they have not managed to command higher prices.

Poor despite the privileged position

The reason for today’s price explosion is the massive fall in the harvest. “Today it is estimated that the harvest in Ivory Coast and Ghana has collapsed by at least a third. Because these two countries account for 60% of global cocoa production, there is a significant market deficit,” says Friedel Hitz Adams, a cocoa expert at the Südwind Institute in Bonn, which specializes in global trade and development policy.

The reason is the El Niño phenomenon, which has been exacerbated by climate change, the German expert emphasizes. It causes heavy rains that damage the harvest. In Ivory Coast and Ghana the phenomenon is also aggravated by the advanced deforestation of the local forests.

High prices will continue

The EU and the US consume the majority of world production. But for every euro that a chocolate bar costs, only about seven cents go to cocoa farmers, while manufacturers and traders get about 80 cents.

In order to better plan this multi-billion euro business, chocolate makers buy cocoa beans well in advance of harvest. “The tragic thing is that farmers in Ivory Coast and Ghana are benefiting little now because the crops were sold before prices rose,” says Friedel Hedge Adams. Most of them sold at the price of $1,800 per ton last year and thus suffered a heavy loss.

Traders in the smaller cocoa-producing countries are currently trying to find as much cocoa as possible. The price of cocoa will remain high for the next one and a half to two years, but it is not certain that the problems of poverty, malnutrition and child labor that have been complained about for 25 years will be addressed.