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Chocolate Problems--2024

Chocolate Problems--2024

 Hello and good day!

When I was a kid, I went to elementary school with two brothers named Jeff and Paul. Jeff was the younger brother and Paul the older.

We all saw Jeff as a cocky, annoying little squirt who would cheat to win, boast about his victories, and make excuses in order to not accept his defeats.

For example, when he was losing, he would claim fatigue and quit before the game was over so that his losses wouldn't be official. Or he'd accuse an honorable player of cheating with no evidence to substantiate his claims.

He was also a liar and a taunt who relished getting under a person's skin until they exploded.

His big brother Paul was a big old monstrous bruiser, and there was an implicit understanding on the playground that anybody who messed with Jeff would have to face the wrath of Paul.

One day Jeff pushed me to the limit.

I had taken a headbutt to the face playing touch football that chipped one of my front teeth.

Jeff was following me around chanting, "snaggle tooth, snaggle tooth, snaggle tooth, snaggle tooth."

"You better stop calling me that Jeff," I told him.

He put his hands up to his head with his thumbs touching his temples and made moose's horns. Then he stuck his tongue out. He sang this next part at me in that sing song melody that kids use when they really want to rub something in.

"What are you going to do about it snaggle tooth Adam? Nah, nah, nah, nah. Snaggle tooth, snaggle tooth."

"That's it Jeff! Get over here!"

I took off running after him, but he saw it coming and got out ahead of me. Give it to Jeff, he was a fast runner.

We were out there on the black top, and I couldn't catch him for a while, and I wasn't gaining any ground on him either. But then, without him realizing it, I began to cut off the angles on him and I was working him into a corner.

Finally, I had him cornered and I could see that he was scared about what was going to happen.

For my part, I didn't know what I was planning on doing. Maybe I'd grab him by the collar and push him up against a chain link fence and tell him in a scary tone that he'd better knock it off.

When I started walking towards him, making my final approach, he put on a face like he was going to cry and that caused me to pause and rethink the situation for a second because I felt a pang of guilt.

It was a fake cry though, and in the moment when I fell for his manipulation, he tried to make a run for it. He had the drop on me and would have broken free, but I instinctively stuck out my foot to block his way.

in his desperate desire to escape, he burst out of the corner at a fast click. He tripped over my foot and went flying superman style through the air and then thudded down on the black top belly first. His arms and knees were all scraped up and he banged his chin on the ground too, causing a shallow laceration.

All of us kids out there had fallen just like that millions of times. It hurt, but it wasn't worth kicking up a fuss over. You got up and dusted yourself off and carried on. That was the natural order of things.

But not Jeff.

He let off the most pathetic wail and everybody on the playground began to gather around, including his brother Paul. Paul helped him up and dusted him off and asked him what had happened.

Jeff's clothes were stained black from the asphalt. His elbows, knees, and hands were torn up pretty good, and he had a trickle of blood on his chin.

Jeff waited to catch his breath in between sobs and when he had composed himself, he pointed at me.

"Adam did it!" he shouted.

Paul looked at me and smiled an evil, satisfied smile, like this was something he'd been waiting for and looking forward to. Now he'd have the chance to bust up one of us little punks.

He punched a fist into the palm of his opposing hand. "I'll see you after school Adam," said Paul.

A hush fell over the playground and the fellow standing next to me, a friend of mine, put his hand on my shoulder and shook his head mournfully.

"I'm sorry for you Adam," he said.

The bell rang and we all went back to class.

When school let out, Paul was on the back field waiting for me.

I'd suffered all afternoon dreading this moment and I was certain that something terrible was about to happen. I figured it would be better to go through whatever I had to go through rather than run scared my entire life.

I walked right up to Paul. "What's it going to be Paul?"

He was so much bigger and stronger than me and there was nothing I could have done to defend myself.

But something funny happened. Paul looked confused.

A bunch of people had gathered to watch the show.

He glanced around and then gave me a hard push.

I fell backwards to the ground, but Paul didn't come after me.

A hard push, I could deal with. I thought for sure I was about to get socked in the nose.

"Get out of here Adam! Next time you do something to my brother, you're really going to get it!"

I got up and walked away unscathed.

I ended up apologizing to Jeff and then I kept my distance from the two brothers from then on.

Paul didn't bother me again.

Over the years, I've attempted to ponder Paul's psychology to get my head around what Paul must have been thinking.

My conclusion is that Paul liked the idea of lording fear over people, but when push came to shove, he didn't really want to beat anybody up. He was hoping that I would run scared from him every day and that he could menace me and humiliate me in front of a crowd.

But walking up and asking what it was going to be threw a wrench in his plans.

This story is true, but it is also a metaphor.

The 2024 cacao harvest is officially underway.

We thought we had a few more weeks before it would be heavy, but we don't.

Our buying team has had huge pickups the last two days.

The El Niño is giving us the exact wrong type of rain. Instead of consistent sprinkling rain, it is dumping and flooding.

The cacao crop in West Africa is projected to come up dramatically short because of the rain pattern and this is causing the world commodity price for cacao to spike. West  Africa grows over 65% of the world's cacao.

The price we pay to our 500 cacao farm partners is based on the world commodity price, plus a premium that pencils out to roughly ten times the FairTrade premium.

How to manage the huge price increase of our main ingredient is a problem that we have to face down and solve this year.

Plus, the Houthi attacks on the Red Sea are going to cause a shipping fiasco for us.

I can feel it.

The Strait of Gibraltar will quickly become congested and then a lot of Mediterranean shipping will head north to Antwerp and Rotterdam.

These are the primary ports we use to ship chocolate out of Europe and to the United States. There will be container and labor shortages, and this will cause all kinds of unpredictability.

Now is the time to be very brave and face our challenges head on.

We've lasted 16 years by staring our fears right in the face and not running from them. When you act that way, things aren't usually as bad as you think they'll be.

I can thank old Paul back on the grass field for that lesson.

It has served me well over the years.

Thank you so much for time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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