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The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Nov. 26

2. The Great Cocoa Panic!!!!

Start rationing your Hershey's and Take 5 bars now, because chocolate candy as we know it may disappear in the near future.

That, at least, is what the Cocoa Research Association declared last month, when it announced that global consumption of chocolate is increasing well beyond the rate of cocoa production, a situation it deemed unsustainable, according to the British Telegraph.

Despite most of the action on the cocoa front heating up over the summer, the media latched on to the story this week, just in time for engorged Americans to panic over the perceived threat to their corpulent way of life. "In 20 years chocolate will be like caviar," John Mason, executive director of the Nature Conservation Research Council, told the Independent. "It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won't be able to afford it."

But fact-check time: While it's true the cocoa prices are soaring, and consumption is on the rise, the same could be said for almost any commodity. It's a simple formula really: take the world's projected population growth and put it next to production of cotton or oil and presto, shortage.

Indeed, chocolate prices have recently climbed, but that's more tied to speculation in the commodity, since this summer the Armajaro hedge fund's Anthony Ward spent $1 billion to corner the market, buying 240,100 tons of cocoa beans and hiking prices to levels not seen since the late 1970s.

Besides, as Popular Science notes, major chocolate manufacturers such as Hershey's (HSY) and Mars are working to genetically engineer cocoa trees to boost chocolate production. Mass-market chocolate, especially in the U.S., doesn't use a lot of real cocoa anyway, suggesting Americans might accept substitutes in their Hershey's or Tootsie Roll Industries (TR) products. The Cadbury's stuff made by Kraft (KFT) for the Brits might pass muster with a little more chemicals, too.

TheStreet Says: Commodity shortages come and go. A simple Internet search reveals that the same headlines announcing the death of chocolate surfaced three years ago as well.
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