How would you react if your favorite dessert and snack was not accessible anywhere in the world?
Unfortunately, chocolate lovers might have to start saving up their rations of chocolate to last them a lifetime. Experts claim that by 2030 to 2050, the world could run out of chocolate.
Cocoa beans, the essential ingredient in chocolate, are grown on cacao trees. In order for these trees to flourish, the surrounding environment must be warm and humid. Currently, the two countries that produce the most cocoa beans are Ivory Coast and Ghana, West Africa. However, due to the growing impact of global climate change, West Africa is expected to suffer rising temperatures and droughts that will decrease the total number of cocoa beans produced. In an ideal world, cocoa farmers would simply have to move their crops to higher grounds, but there is an insufficient amount of space to move to, and many upland regions and areas are protected for wildlife.
Another issue arises in who the cocoa farmers actually are: according to expert Doug Hawkins, of Hardman Agribusiness (a capital markets advisory service firm), cocoa farmers are often poor families who cannot afford pesticides and fertilizers for their crops. Hawkins claims a chocolate deficit of 100,000 tons per year is in the foreseeable future. Since 2012, the price of cocoa beans has increased by almost 67% because there has been less of the beans themselves, and major chocolate-producing companies, like Barry Callebaut in Switzerland have, had to raise prices, much to the dismay of consumers.
To help aid the chocolate shortage problem, scientists are working on genetically-modified hybrid cacao trees that can ideally survive in a warmer and dryer climate, while still producing high-quality cocoa for the rest of us to eat. It comes as somewhat of a relief to know that even the scientists of today’s world fear a shortage of cocoa as much as the average consumer does, and that people of the highest intelligence are working to solve the problem. However, it is moderately saddening to think that instead of worrying about the rapidly changing climate and how to address and attempt to aid it, the majority of the people involved in trying to help cocoa stay on the market are most likely looking to gain profit from it; for example, one of the so-called experts on the situation is the managing director of a capital markets advisory business, who could turn a profit from fixing this issue, not a climate-change specialist, someone who one may assume would be leading this issue.
So, with the aid of genetically modified trees, you may not have to set aside a few pieces of chocolate to last you into the next five decades- but at what cost to the global environment?
Graphics: Lizzie Benjamin