Say it isn’t so!

Sports VIEW

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

It’s bad enough gas prices continue to climb.

However, if you’re a chocolate lover, like I am, you’ll be even more concerned about the predicted increase in chocolate prices. So what does that have to do with sports? Plenty.

It’s not just those of you sitting in the high school bleachers licking the edges of that dark chocolate hockey puck otherwise known as a Ding Dong. Concession stands and bake sales across the nation will also see the sticker shock that comes from a shortage of cocoa beans. Girl Scout cookie sales for this year are probably safe, but let’s see how much we have to shell out for a box of Thin Mints next year.

The problem began back in the fall of 2009 when political unrest in the Ivory Coast resulted in an export embargo on cocoa, as an incoming and outgoing presidential candidate tried to one-up one another to force the loser out of the position when they disagreed about the vote outcome.

West Africa is touted as the top producer of cocoa and each year produces about 40 percent of the world’s cocoa beans. That, along with poor crops, diminishing numbers of cocoa tree fields, and a shortening life span of a cocoa tree that now lives only about 30 years is just part of the overall problem. Decades ago, cocoa trees were good for 100 years or better. An average Ivory Coast cocoa farmer makes only about $1 a day, so continuing on with that agricultural product is also losing interest among younger farmers.

That’s not all the bad news, though. Milk chocolate is half sugar, and that crop is also in short supply because of the flooding in Australia that has damaged sugar cane fields. Poor weather in China, India and Brazil has also added to the sugar price increase that has put sugar and corn syrup at an all-time high. What’s next? Butter?

By the way, did you know that chocolate is actually a fruit? Don’t forget your five-a-day requirement! Okay, so perhaps I stretch that just a tad, but the cocoa beans themselves come from the cocoa tree and fruit that contains the tasty beans that eventually become cocoa. So, technically and scientifically, the end product is part of the food pyramid and heart-healthy in moderation. That’s been scientifically proven!

Chocolatiers report that their cocoa contracts are locked in for a certain period, but many have contracts that expire in March and April. When they have to start paying more, so will we. Supply and demand is also a key part of the equation. We want it, so they will keep making it, just at a high cost that will be passed along to the sticker price of your next Butterfinger or Milky Way.

I’m a chocolate snob, as most chocolate lovers are. I love the creamy dark morsels made by

Dove, Brachs and Giradhelli. I’ll eat just about anything covered in chocolate, except coconut. Based on the traffic at my office candy mitt, I’m not alone. And, yes, it’s a baseball mitt. It’s child-sized and sits in a place of honor next to my MSU Sparty Gnome. This is the sports department after all. When there’s a supply of Twix, York’s or Milky Ways in the mitt, I somehow seem to see a lot more people pass by my desk to drop off faxes. I’m amidst a big group of chocolate lovers, though, so it’s all good.

So, as you watch the area girls’ basketball and hockey post-season action this week, don’t forget to bring a few extra bucks. That double chocolate, no foam latte many of you love will also cost you a few extra dollars. I’m safe on that because I don’t drink coffee, preferring what else, of course….hot chocolate. They say the darker the chocolate the more it will cost–naturally. Semi-sweet chocolate chips, your kids’ favorite Hershey’s syrup, and that delicious vanilla ice cream cone dip that soon enough will be smeared all over your kids’ faces after T-ball are all the richer, darker variety of chocolate.

Start stocking up now on that Easter and Halloween Candy. They say it will take more than five years for the industry to recover and prices will continue to skyrocket. Stored in a cool, dark place, chocolate can last more than a year. That’s if you can stay out of it!! Because as we ALL know, there is no better place for Thin Mints or York Peppermint Patties than the freezer, right?

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