Beloved by most people, cocoa and feta cheese are just two examples of once affordable items that now burn a hole in consumers’ pockets.

These two widely different products share the same affliction that explains their surge in price. A significant shortage in the raw material they are made of.

Chocolate is made of cacao beans which almost exclusively hail from Africa, in countries such as Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. For decades, all parties enjoyed a presumed abundance of cocoa beans which was sold at very low prices to chocolate producers.

However, while traders made a good money sending cacao off to the factories, those actually cultivating the beans lived way under the extreme poverty line and could not invest in the a cultivation. Due to the persisting underinvestment, the last cacao trees in West Africa were planted in the early 2000s.

At almost 25 years old, these trees have passed their prime and do not produce as much as they once did. As a result, the period 2023-2024 was the first time global consumption exceeded production by such proportions since the early 1960s.

Feta cheese shares the similar ill fate. The cheese is made from sheep’s and goat’s milk gathered in the Greek countryside. As one of the most famous symbols of Greek culture, it had been a staple in Greek households for decades as it was both tasty and very affordable.

Once again, however, even though middlemen made a very decent living producing Feta, farmers trading the milk barely broke even, without having enough money remaining to invest in their herds and facilities. As a result, livestock numbers decreased over the years, leading to less raw material and, in turn, less feta cheese.

As the simple law of supply and demand goes, given that demand for both products remains high, but suppliers are finding it hard to meet it, prices have skyrocketed to almost unaffordable levels. Without the necessary investments needed to increase the production of both milk and cacao, feta and cocoa might as well become an indulgence reserved for special occasions.