Cocoa suppliers in Solomon Islands have all but conceded that price levels in 2011, when the price hit USD$3826 per ton, is no longer possible.

“Those were good times, price was high, so there was a steady local supply of the beans, it was a good time to be in the cocoa business,” said Harold, a local cocoa supplier who has since left the business.

“Prices changed a lot, up and down, making it hard to predict when to buy and when to sell, was just not easy to operate my business.”

But are better times just around the corner, again? Andy Hecht, author of the weekly Hecht Commodity Report, seems to think so.

Mr Hecht, a sought-after commodity and futures trader, believes there will be a spike in the price for cocoa soon.

“It is possible that the price could rise to challenge 2011 levels and move to north of the $4000 per ton level.

“The supply side of the fundamental equation for cocoa beans is always the primary driver of the price each year. Cocoa beans only thrive in areas of the world that are close to the equator. Tropical weather conditions best suit the cocoa crops.”

Mr Hecht says that the weather and the outbreak of crop diseases in producing nations each year is the most significant factor when it comes to crop yields.

“With over 60% of the world's annual supplies coming from the West African region, the Ivory Coast and Ghana are the heart of the supply equation for the cocoa market.

“But there is a problem in Ghana when it comes to supplies for this year. An outbreak of the swollen shoot virus will likely reduce the output from 900,000 to 800,000 tons this year.

“So, we have a situation where there is low supply but rising demand, which is a potent combination that could push the price of cocoa futures significantly higher.”

He says that if the outbreak of disease continues to spread and lowers output or spreads to the neighboring Ivory Coast, it could push the cocoa market into a deficit which could have an explosive impact on the price of the beans – potentially north of USD$4,000 per ton.