Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The State of Cocoa Piracy in 2018


Back in 2009, we had an article about cocoa piracy and smuggling and how it affects cocoa production and chocolate sales. Today, partly in honor of "Talk Like a Pirate Day," we are going to revisit that topic to see if anything has changed.

Piracy and smuggling can arise during political crisis when governmental forces are engaged in battles and simply can't be everywhere at once. Smuggling and piracy can also arise when economic conditions deteriorate leaving large numbers of people struggling to make ends meet. Of course stealing and engaging in illegal commerce is common in most places and times, but what is chosen for this illicit trade changes. Cocoa has been part of pirate trade for centuries. So what is the state of cocoa smuggling in 2018.

Did you know there has been an ongoing civil conflict in Cameroon? Since November 2016, there has been a battle between English and French speakers in the African nation and it has impacted cocoa production. Major cocoa companies and plantations have left the region and their cocoa pods fell into the hands of pirates or just plain smugglers.

Around 100,000 metric tons of cocoa were smuggled from Ivory Coast during the 2017-2018 harvest season. These were sold for a higher price in Ghana so it makes sense that people want to steal them however, Not only is smuggling an issue, but a banking crisis in the Ivory Coast is threatened farmers who may lose plantations or turn to smuggling to find money.

As we talked about in our 2009 article, legitimate chocolate makers won't buy cacao that they can't track back to the farms. While the smugglers might get an immediate financial gain when they find an illegal buyers, most of us won't see products made from those beans. Instead the overall cost of beans goes up as the supply decreases meaning that either pay more or get less chocolate for our money. Smuggling and pirates travel across ecosystems, dragging contaminates from one area into others. Any cross contamination between cocoa farming regions, even across plantations, can introduce insects and diseases that endanger cacao production. Reduced yield obviously increase prices for everyone along the chain of cocoa trade.

Cocoa piracy is still a thing today and yes, it does affect your prices when you buy chocolate. Probably not as much weather does but still, it is a factor.

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