The world's favorite confection is facing a dilemma: due to higher demand, disease and a particularly nasty fungus, the world is slowly running out of chocolate.

But before you start panicking, know this: science is working on a fix.

So what's causing the world's chocolate supply to shrink? Currently, the world is eating more chocolate than ever. Last year, the world ate an estimated 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. And that number is only increasing: by 2020, that will be 1 million metric tons. Part of that rise in demand comes from China, where chocolate is a hotter commodity than ever.

At the moment, demand is becoming greater than supply. And supply isn't having an easy time of things either: Cocoa farmers are feeling the strain after a severe drought in West Africa.  And now, a fungus called frosty pod has wiped out nearly 40 percent of cocoa crops. Ebola is also a problem, as countries bordering those with outbreaks now have closed borders, preventing immigrant workers from crossing over to work on the cocoa farms.

"The price made the move to three-year highs in response to the Ebola crisis, on fears that it could spread into Ivory Coast and Ghana," says Jack Scoville, a senior market analyst at Price Futures Group.

Science, however, is working on a solution by producing new hybrid plants that produce more cocoa than current crops. There are also new strains resistant to frosty pod. However, both of these solutions have a downside: they produce cocoa that makes less tasty chocolate.

One chocolate connoisseur described these latest strains as tasting like "acidic dirt."

That doesn't sound so good, does it? The problem is that plant breeders don't focus so much on flavor, something chocolate depends on. Will the world actually settle for dirt-flavored candy bars to get their chocolate fix?

However, there is hope, particularly in Costa Rica, where farmers are eschewing traditional crops for cocoa, thanks to an organization called the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE). CATIE sprayed frosty pod on a variety of cocoa plants, eventually creating some that are resistant to the fungus. One of those varieties in particular maintained its flavor and recently even won prizes in an international competition.

So we can't write tasty chocolate off just yet, but regardless, the higher demand will soon greatly impact prices.

"If prices rise at a greater rate, chocolate manufacturers will pass the increase onto consumers," says Andrew Rolle of Juremont, a chocolate importer.

[Photo Credit: Free Images]

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