While researchers are working to stem diseases that attack the cacao trees, which produce the beans used to make chocolate, another problem is looming in a potential worldwide chocolate shortage: drought.
Meanwhile, the demand for chocolate is growing worldwide. Farmers are producing less cocoa than the world eats, creating a deficit, according to Bloomberg.
The chocolate deficit is expected to grow to 1 million metric tons by 2020 and to 2 million metric tons a year by 2030, Bloomberg reported.
Drought is compounding the concern in many major cocoa growing areas of the world. Drought conditions have been gripping Western Africa, which includes the number one area in the world for cocoa production, the Ivory Coast or Cote d'Ivoire, and Indonesia, according to the Global Drought Monitor. Indonesia is the world's number three cocoa producer.
It does not look like drought conditions will let up anytime soon for the inflicted areas, according to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.
"Western Africa has gone into their seasonally dry period, so not much drought relief is expected through the winter," Nicholls said. "Several climate models as well as some teleconnections point toward below-normal to near-normal rainfall in Ivory Coast and Ghana during the spring into the summer. As a result, any drought relief will be minimal."
"The weak El Niño will likely mean a drier-than-normal regime will continue across Indonesia through at least the spring," Nicholls explained.
As concerns the world's shortage in cocoa production amplify, The Hershey Co. announced an extension of a program called Hershey Learn to Grow, that will reach nearly 9,000 cocoa farmers who belong to 27 cooperatives spread across six regions of Cote d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa-producing country.
Plans include rehabilitating cocoa farms that are more than 25 years old with new, faster-growing and higher-yielding cacao trees, the company said.
"This significant expansion of the Hershey Learn to Grow Cote d'Ivoire farmer training and community development program is another example of how public and industry partners, who have deep expertise and a commitment to cocoa sustainability, can positively impact the lives of farmers and their families," Terry O'Day, Hershey's senior vice president and chief supply chain officer, said. "Through skilled trainers, we help farmers raise their income by adopting modern agricultural practices, while also investing in schools and infrastructure projects, important to local communities."