It was just about this time last year when there was panic over a global wine shortage. Research suggested that the world demand for wine exceeded the then-current supply by 300 million cases. News headlines about the world running out of wine had people in a social-media panic. Fast forward a year and we all still have plenty of wine.

The prices, particularly of high-end wines, may be a little steeper now. The rising prices may have caused some people to drink less wine or buy less expensive wines — but wine still exists.

Over the past few days there have been similar news headlines, this time about chocolate. The world’s biggest chocolate-maker says we’re running out of chocolate is the Washington Post’s headline. The “running out of chocolate” claim is a bit sensational. There will be a supply-and-demand problem, but there will still be chocolate. So let’s call it what it really is — a deficit, or a shortage.

What’s causing the shortage? The demand has increased because more people are eating chocolate, but that's not the only reason.

  • Production is decreasing because of dry weather in West Africa.
  • A fungal disease has wiped out an estimated 30 to 40 percent of global cocoa production.
  • Some cocoa farmers have switched to more profitable crops.
  • People are eating more dark chocolate products, which contain more cocoa than milk chocolate products.
All of these factors will affect the amount of chocolate available if everything stays the same. There are people trying to solve the problems, including those attempting to create cocoa trees that produce up to seven times the amount as the current tree. That may solve the demand problem, but it isn’t necessarily the best course of action when it comes to quality or the environment.

For now, chocolate consumers will have to wait and see how it plays out. Like last year’s predictions of a wine shortage or this year’s earlier predictions of a lime shortage, it may not be as dire as the headlines make it seem. Or, we may have to accept higher prices for good, sustainably produced chocolate and eat less of it.

And, if you’re still afraid that we’ll really run out of chocolate, think back to other food panics of the past few years. News headlines and social media hysteria made them sound dire, but in the end, the panic was short-lived. (In the end, everything turned out OK.)

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Looming chocolate deficit is not a reason to panic
Farmers are producing less cocoa than the world demands. That doesn’t mean we’re running out of chocolate.