I should have cocoa‘d: dark dealings in the chocolate world

Tom Mendelsohn

102755012 300x199 I should have cocoa‘d: dark dealings in the chocolate worldBrace yourselves chocolate fans, because you could be in for a bit of a bumpy ride this year – there’s a feller trying to buy up the world’s supply of cocoa.

Hedge Fund manager Anthony Ward is looking ominously like a Bond villain for the modern era, with the news that he’s bought up 241,000 tonnes of cocoa beans – seven per cent of the entire world’s supply, and enough to make perhaps five billion chocolate bars. Some analysts reckon it cost around £658m.

Chocfinger, as he’s been called since the last time he pulled these shenanigans (making a tasty profit in the process), forced the deal through at the beginning of last week, much to the consternation of rival traders, who are all scared he’ll stockpile his cocoa in a nefarious attempt to drive up prices, hold the world to ransom and make a killing – death by chocolate. Sorry.

Ward, who made £40m last time he tried to pinch the cocoa market in 2002, lives in 5,947 square feet of Mayfair town house with his wife (Choctopussy?) and two kids. His company Armajaro manages nearly a billion pounds in assets, and employs close to 500 staff, who may or may not be Oompa-Loompas.

Last week, his housekeeper told The Mail: ‘He is not here and I don’t know when he is going to be back.’

While his scheme isn’t quite on a malevolent moneymaking par with irradiating Fort Knox, and while it makes more sense than Madonna the lesbian fencing instructor, it’s still terrifying chocolate lovers everywhere. You see, while the wily Wonka has yet to corner the market, he supposedly now has enough cocoa beans to have a hearty impact on global prices, which have already hit more than £2,700 a tonne, a 30-year high.

Under EU rules, a milk chocolate bar must consist of at minimum 25 per cent cocoa solids. Dark bars need at least 35 per cent.

You can bet that these prices will not be absorbed by Big Chocolate, but that they’ll be passed directly on to the consumer. Or that’s the idea, anyway – cocoa prices fell by 15 per cent last week – losing him nearly 100 million pounds in the process. He’s better than this, though, a real expert in the worldwide cocoa trade, and the chances are he’s playing a longer game, perhaps banking on a weak Ivorian cocoa harvest in October.

Then again, perhaps he’s betting that California will legalise pot?

Image credit: Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images

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