The Ebola Virus Claims a Victim We All Cherish

chocolaterie

The latest victim of the Ebola virus isn’t a human, but it’s one we hold rather near and dear: Chocolate.

That’s right, the spread of the Ebola virus has caused the Ivory Coast—the largest chocolate producing nation in the world—to shut its borders with both Liberia and Guinea, locking out migrant workers from those nations who pick the cacao beans. Both Liberia and Guinea have been hit hard by the virus that has infected more than 8,000 people, killing nearly half.

While there have been no reported cases of Ebola in the Ivory Coast, the disease’s impact is enough to cause the country to take safety measures, and that could raise chocolate prices around the world.

“In the countries’ efforts to block the movements of people to limit the spread of the disease, governments have set up roadblocks and limited traffic, a strategy that has also isolated and shut down farming operations,” reports Politico.

Now, the World Cocoa Foundation has recruited many of its 113 members, according to Politico, in order to help keep chocolate production flowing in the region, and hopefully abate price hikes at retail. “Morristown, N.J.-based Transmar Group, an international cocoa supplier, already has pledged $100,000, and Mars has indicated its support, too,” reports Politico.

The Ivory Coast produces about 1.6 million metric tons of cacao beans per year, “roughly 33 percent of the world’s total,” reports Politico. And the Ebola scare has sent cacao prices jumping from a normal range of $2,000 to $2,700 to as high as $3,400 last month.

Chocolate manufacturers are working to educate their employees and support their growers and pickers in the field, but “there are still some fears out there,” Jack Scoville, an analyst and vice president at the Chicago-based Price Futures Group told Politico.

Keep in mind though that most of the chocolate coming out of the Ivory Coast goes into mainstream chocolate candy products like M&M’s. Not only is this chocolate loaded with excessive sugar, dairy and other unhealthy ingredients, but it promotes unfair labor situations as well. You can seek out Fair Trade and organic chocolate products that are healthier for you and the planet.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Bart Booms

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.