The Ebola outbreak has been terrifying in a lot of ways, but to people who aren’t on the ground, it can feel distant and abstract. However, disease outbreaks can have economic side-effects, and one of Ebola’s will be that the chocolate you get in the coming months will cost more and be a lot crappier.
Why? Chocolate is based, of course, on cocoa, which only grows in a narrow band of the Earth ten degrees north and ten degree south of the Equator. Guess which continent most of the world’s cocoa comes from? Granted, the world’s biggest producer, the Ivory Coast, hasn’t seen any Ebola outbreaks (yet) but it borders two of the three countries that have seen outbreaks, and which promptly closed their borders.
This is a problem, when the majority of your workforce comes from those two countries! The chocolate market has actually been in trouble for a while, now: Demand is beginning to outstrip supply, to the point where chocolate companies are trying to figure out how to pass off generic candy as “chocolate.”
Even if Ebola doesn’t hop the border, the lack of labor creates some serious supply chain and quality issues. Essentially, either less chocolate will be made and it’ll cost more to make it, or crappier chocolate will be made and sold. Nor is it out of the realm of possibility the need for labor might mean some workers try to sneak over the border anyway… possibly bringing Ebola with them. Just in case all of this wasn’t depressing enough, odds are pretty good these farms will be staffed by child laborers to get that crappy choconugget to your mouth.
In other words, Ebola could wind up causing massive human misery even for people who never get near it. And also, you get crappy chocolate. Everybody loses!