Half of the world’s cocoa supply comes from the West African countries of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. But in the coming decades, climate change could severely limit production in the region — disrupting local farmers and squeezing global chocolate supply.
A new report out from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture finds that between 2030 and 2050, land area suitable for cocoa production will fall dramatically. While rising temperatures and changing rainfall pattern may shift cocoa production to land currently not suitable, the net impact to this $9 billion-per-year industry could be severe.
The news release makes clear that climate change is already having an impact on cocoa crops:
“Many of these farmers use their cocoa trees like ATM machines,” said CIAT’s Dr. Peter Laderach, the report’s lead author. “They pick some pods and sell them to quickly raise cash for school fees or medical expenses. The trees play an absolutely critical role in rural life.
“Already we’re seeing the effects of rising temperatures on cocoa crops currently produced in marginal areas, and with climate change these areas are certain to spread. At a time when global demand for chocolate is rising fast, particularly in China, there is already upward pressure on prices. It’s not inconceivable that this, combined with the impact of climate change, could cause chocolate prices to increase sharply.”
The report predicts that the ideal cocoa growing areas will shift to higher altitudes, to compensate for the higher temperatures. “The problem is that much of West Africa is relatively flat and there is no ‘uphill’. This is a major cause of the potentially drastic decreases in cocoa suitability in the region,” continued Laderach.
In Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa represents 7.5% of GDP; in Ghana, it makes up 3.4% of GDP.
The report, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, calls for increased research into heat and drought resistant crops, and to help transition cocoa farming to new regions that will be suitable for production in the future.
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