Ebola concerns close borders, threaten world chocolate supply

WASHINGTON — Growing Ebola concerns have international chocolate suppliers banding together to combat the outbreak.

Ivory Coast, the West African nation that is the world’s biggest cacao producer, has closed its borders along Liberia and Guinea, Politico reports. That could make for a difficult harvest season, with a limited workforce.

According to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Ivory Coast produces about 1.6 million metric tons of cacao beans each year, which is nearly 33 percent of the world’s total.

At this time, Ivory Coast has not seen an Ebola case within its borders.

Now, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) is seeking donations from international chocolate makers for its response to the Ebola outbreak, according to Politico. WCF is reaching out to companies to provide medical and humanitarian aid to countries dealing with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Mars Chocolate announced Wednesday it planned to donate $100,000 to the effort.

“As an industry, we care very deeply about the well-being of cocoa growing communities across West Africa,” Jean Christophe Flatin, Global President of Mars Chocolate, said in a news release.

All donated funds will go to two non-governmental organizations working in West Africa, Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic charity, and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, according to the news release.

A New Jersey-based cocoa supplier, Transmar Group, has also pledged $100,000 to the effort, Politico reports.

It’s not just chocolate producers that are worried – market prices also jumped for cocoa futures last month, and continue to fluctuate.

International chocolate companies are now focusing on educating workers about Ebola and its risks, from the farm level to processing plants.

“We have taken measures to educate all our staff in Central and West Africa on the virus and the best ways to prevent against it whilst encouraging them to share this information with their families and communities,” a Nestle spokesperson told Politico.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has warned that West Africa could face up to 10,000 new Ebola cases per week within two months. It also said the death rate during the outbreak has risen.

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