Climate change is projected to have significant effect on the world’s production of cacao beans.
WHERE IS THE WORLD’S CACAO GROWN? A large majority of the world’s cacao production, and consequently chocolate, comes from the Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana in West Africa. A small percentage is grown in Australia. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that rising global temperatures are projected to make the current West Africa growing regions unsuitable by 2050. NOAA describes the conditions necessary for cacao production as existing only 20 degrees north and south of the equator creating a geographical vulnerability to small changes in climate.
WHAT OTHER FACTORS AFFECT CACAO PRODUCTION? An important, and perhaps less widely reported, issue affecting cacao production are the smallholder cacao farmers who have little access to finance and suffer from malnutrition and poor health. The World Cocoa Foundation: Cacao “is essential to the livelihoods of 40–50 million people worldwide.” A common issue in many food production sectors, particularly small-scale quality producers, is a lack of profitability. Often, the retail cost of many food products does not represent the actual cost of production.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS TO THE CACAO PRODUCTION CRISIS? Fortune Magazine: “One change is to increase and stabilize the price of cacao beans to make farming more competitive… by decommoditizing the cacao bean market to reward higher quality. Combining market incentives with holistic approaches to improving farmer livelihoods by diversifying incomes, raising financial literacy, and improving health and education will secure the futures of smallholder cacao farming.”
The Innovative Genomics Institute at the University of California-Berkeley is partnering with Mars Candy Company to create a genetically modified form of cacao trees which may be resistant to disease and the projected effects of climate change.
While future availability of chocolate still seems likely, what is also likely is that production costs will increase as technology rises to respond to climate change, and fair income to producers increases.
We should all be prepared to pay more, and rightfully so.