5 reasons why chocolate is in danger around the world

5 reasons why chocolate is in danger around the world


Whether you have a sweet palate or just buy chocolate to make a gift, there are reasons to worry.

The future of cocoa , the heart of a global chocolate industry valued at US $ 98,000 million annually, is under threat .

The fault lies with a combination of factors, from global warming to plagues.

Even some scientists went further by predicting that chocolate could be “on the way to extinction” in the next four decades.

While many think that this is an exaggeration, other experts work hard to find a solution and avoid catastrophe.

But why is the world supply of chocolate threatened?

1. We eat more and more chocolate

According to a Euromonitor research firm, global demand for chocolate reached 7,450 tons in 2016 – 17 , a jump of more than 10% compared to five years earlier.

Swiss chocolate.Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Switzerland has the highest consumption per person of chocolate in the world.


The appetite for chocolate was driven mainly by increased consumption in China and India, the two most populous countries in the world.

India, for example, recorded the highest growth in 2016, at 13%.

The biggest sweet tooth in the world are in the USA. which represent 20% of world consumption.

However, the country that eats the most chocolate per capita is Switzerland.

The Swiss ate an average of 11 kg of chocolate per person in 2016, according to the trade body Chocosuisse.

2. The supply is complex

The figures of the International Cocoa Organization, which analyzes the market for this raw material, show a variation between surpluses and supply deficit in the last 20 years.

A recent survey of traders, analysts and intermediaries conducted by the Bloomberg agency estimated that the global supply of cocoa beans could exceed the demand by 97,500 tons in the 2017-18 season.

Cocoa beans.Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Cocoa prices have decreased since 1980.


It seems a good thing, but only if you are a consumer or manufacturer.

The oversupply has a direct impact on the prices of basic products.

Cocoa prices have been declining.


7.450 tons were consumed in 2016-17

  • India and Chinaboosted chocolate consumption in recent years.
  • USA He is the one who buys the most chocolate. It represents 20% of world consumption.
  • Switzerland is the country that consumes the most chocolate per person. In 2016, the Swiss ate 11 kg each on average.

At the end of the 1970s, it exceeded US $ 4,000 per ton, but it never reached that value again. Currently around US $ 2,100.

The producers are the ones who feel the lowest prices.

The vast majority of the world’s production comes from low-income countries. The main producers are, for example, African countries.

Two of them, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, are responsible for more than half of the world’s cocoa.

The activists say that the producers received about 6.6% of the value of a tonof cocoa sold.

To make matters worse, the average age of a cocoa producer is 51 years and the younger ones are changing their interest to more profitable crops.

3. It is a difficult crop

The cacao tree, Theobroma cacao , is native to tropical areas and only grows well in humid climates with a shorter dry season and regular rainfall, which explains why it is basically limited to a narrow belt of 10 degrees on each side of the line of Ecuador.

Woman with cocoa beans.Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption According to the World Bank, cocoa represents 15% of the Gross Domestic Product of the Ivory Coast.


The production does not register development : 90% of the cocoa is grown in small family farms.

Growing and harvesting requires a lot of work: the cocoa pods do not mature at the same time and the trees must be continuously monitored.

According to the NGO Make Chocolate Fair, the cacao tree bears fruit all year round and it takes the whole harvest of a tree to make half a kilo of cocoa.

4. Climate change does not help

Small fluctuations in climate can damage production, so climate change is not really what the industry needs.

A recent report from the Institute of Innovative Genomics at the University of California (USA) predicts that “climate change will significantly reduce the amount of land suitable for growing cocoa in the coming decades.”

Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana will lose significant amounts of suitable growing area.

Fruit of the cacao tree.Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Cocoa is very vulnerable to insects and parasites.

5. The party of the plagues

Unlike other important crops that were the subject of continuous scientific efforts to increase productivity and create greater resistance to stress and environmental diseases, cocoa remains basically a wild plant.

If in its natural habitat, the Amazon basin, the trees “learned” to manage the pathogens of the area, the introduction of the tree in Africa by the European colonizers in the 19th century changed things.

“These plants were taken to a new continent and an environment to which they were not adapted, because cocoa was never systematically cultivated, it has a very narrow genetic diversity and viruses can overcome their resistance by reorganizing their genomes,” writes Judy Brown, a plant virologist at the University of Arizona (USA).

And threats also include insect damage and fungal infections , such as the one that hit northeastern Brazil in the late 1980s, which resulted in a decrease in production from 320,000 tons per year to 191,000 between 1991 and 2000 .

A worker gathers the cocoa pods.Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Climate change is expected to have a high impact on the future of chocolate.

So far, the only way producers handle diseased trees is by replacing them, but the problem is that they can become infected for weeks or months before showing symptoms, and thus can transmit diseases to their neighbors before being detected.

The team of Judy Brown of the University of Arizona is working in collaboration with Mars Inc., one of the giants of the chocolate-based confectionery industry, to develop a “molecular test kit” that farmers can use to detect signs of infection.

A team from the Innovative Genomics Institute is also experimenting with the use of genetic manipulation to make cocoa seeds more resistant.

So, if we cross our fingers, we can continue enjoying our beloved chocolate for years to come.

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