SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
There are a lot of things in the world we like, but could live without. Our favorite TV shows, for instance. Sports teams, coffee (!), videos of cute kittens, even the internet.
Okay, maybe not the internet, now that we’re hooked.
But there’s one thing most of us really can’t do without, even if other people think otherwise. Something that makes the world go around (metaphorically … who knows, maybe literally). Something that, if lost, would cause more withdrawal than caffeine-laced crack.
But now, horribly, there’s a shortage of chocolate.
I’ll pause now until the horrified screams die down.
The world, according to experts, is facing its worst cocoa deficit in 50 years. Not to go on a tangent, but how does one become a cocoa expert? Do I not qualify as one, after half a century as a connoisseur? I mean, come on: I’ve eaten more chocolate than Obama’s hit golf balls. I’ve popped more M&M’s than Charlie Sheen has popped pills, including aspirin. I’ve bought more chocolate bars than Fort Knox has gold bars, but now it seems the chocolate bars may be more valuable.
Not that I wouldn’t eat them anyway.
The International Cocoa Organization says cocoa demand exceeds output, a gap they predict will spread to 70,000 metric tons – not up to Federal deficit standards, but any time chocolate combines with red it’s a bad thing (except for chocolate velvet cake).
(By the way, the ICCO should not be confused with the ICO, International Cuckoo Organization. Go to the convention of one and you get chocolate treats; go to the convention of the other and you get a straightjacket. At least, that’s what Lindsay Lohan says.)
The ICCO thinks the shortfall might go on for six years, which would be the longest running shortage since record keeping began in 1960. It could increase prices by 14%, making it $3,200 a ton.
What? I buy cocoa by the ton—don’t you?
The good news is that chocolate isn’t made of just cocoa. Ingredients include chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, and vanilla.
The bad news is, two of those five items come from cocoa.
(You don’t want to know what lecithin is, but rest assured: Having the word “thin” in its name means nothing.)
To turn chocolate into milk chocolate—and please do, thanyouverymuch—requires … are you ready for this? Milk.
But it takes about 400 cocoa beans to make a pound of any kind of chocolate, so we can’t depend on the other ingredients to save us. The problem stems partly from where cocoa is grown, according to commodities manager Ashmead Pringle. I threw his name in because “Pringle” in relation to an article on cocoa made me giggle. I assume Pringles already has a chocolate dipped chip.
Pringle (Hee!) says cocoa is produced in African countries that tend to be politically and meteorologically unstable. To make matters worse, farmers have no incentive to produce more, because when the price goes up their pay doesn’t. I guess farming is the same all over.
Meanwhile, the demand for cocoa is predicted to hit 7.3 million tons next year, a pace that hasn’t slowed despite my appeals for everyone except me to decrease their consumption. I certainly didn’t help the matter by experimenting with double chocolate-dipped Snickers bars.
Here’s one answer: Grow your own. Unfortunately, cocoa needs tropical climates—it originated in Central and South America, after all, areas that were a paradise before the Spanish showed up and forced the Natives to eat a more balanced diet. In addition to there, cocoa is now grown in a few small areas of Asia, but most still comes from West Africa. It can’t just be planted in a person’s back yard, and don’t think I didn’t try. Maybe I should have taken the wrapper off, first.
What we need, then, are greenhouses, or some kind of large area with special lights that will allow cocoa to grow-grow. I considering building one of my own, and thus never having to depend on anyone else for my supply and … oh, boy. I guess I am addicted, huh?
So I checked on the cost and how much work it would be, and I’m not doing it.
Then I came up with another brilliant idea. (The first was in 1993.) What about all those marijuana dealers who get busted for growing pot? The police confiscate vehicles involved in drug distribution—why not confiscate their growing places, too?
I know, brilliant. Granted, it’s swapping one addiction for another, but no one ever suffered from secondhand chocolate … just from a lack of it.
So there you have it, problem solved. Also, by busting the pot growers you’re cutting down on people baking pot into brownies, and thus saving extra cocoa even as you’re growing new. In no time at all, the cocoa supply will be replenished.