The cocoa shortage stories (or extinction) are striking into hearts of chocolate consumers and chocolate makers. Media coverage has suggested that by 2050, we may run out of chocolate due to climate change ravaging West Africa.
Why are the Cocoa Trees Facing ‘Extinction’
Almost 70 percent of the cocoa beans across the world come from West Africa, primarily Ghana and Ivory Coast where poverty and the equatorial warm and wet climates negatively affects cocoa tree growth. Changes in weather conditions (such as the notorious dry Sahel winds that emanate from Sahara or the heavy rains during harvests) leads to crop failure and dramatic rise in worldwide cocoa prices. Currently, we do not have simple solutions to complex and diverse challenges plaguing the cocoa industry.
The West must hurriedly adopt solutions to save the coca tree if we want to continue enjoying chocolate.
Use of Increased Scientifically Backed Programs
There is a need for increased scientifically backed programs of breeding to develop hardy cocoa tree that will be drought tolerant, disease resistant, and more productive. The rollout of such trees across the tropics will ensure that the farmers easily produce more beans without losing much to the environmental problems. Even though the move might affect the cocoa flavor in a way, it is good enough to at least have a chocolate tree instead of waiting for its extinction.
Despite such technological advances in the cocoa industry, farmers may fail to adopt them because of lack of financial incentives. The stakeholders can support the farmers with finances or give them free cocoa plants.
Training Farmers on Better Farming Methods
Moreover, the framers need training on how to plant the new cocoa trees for higher productivity. The framers should also be helped to implement the training they receive. The training with regards to cocoa production is mostly designed without understanding the cocoa farming socioeconomic farming.
Increase Cocoa Prices to Benefit the Poor Farmers
Cocoa growing is not profitable for the small-scale farmers who are always trapped in cycles of low investment, low income, poor health, and aging. As such, many are shifting to profitable crops such as palm oil and corn so that they can feed their families.
One great change will be increasing and stabilizing cocoa bean prices to make farming more competitive; for instance, we can de-commoditize cocoa bean market so that high quality is rewarded. Combining the holistic approaches to market incentives (by improving education and health, raising financial literacy, and diversifying incomes) may secure the future of the small-scale cocoa farmer.
To save cocoa trees, we can apply same technologies used in horticulture industry in developed countries. Such approaches may help in meeting cocoa demands and specialty markets. Unfortunately, if you attend a room packed with chocolate CEOs and you utter the phrase fair price, all will clam, shuffle; and mumble about the law of avoiding discussing pricing and without waste of time, they will change the topic immediately. In other words, with clear farmer support, chocolate will become expensive, but not face extinction. Farmers should be paid more for their cocoa if we want to encourage them to keep farming. Our chocolate entirely depends on that.