It's Valentine's Day, and in supermarkets, drug stores and specialty shops across the country, shelves are lined with chocolates of every shape, size and variety. As you browse through endless heart-shaped boxes, consider this: The chocolate industry is in jeopardy, and if things don't change, there could be a worldwide cocoa deficit by the year 2020.
In a chocolate-obsessed society, it's hard to fathom ever running out of the sweet treat. How is it even possible that a staple crop like cocoa can be nearing depletion? The answer is surprisingly simple: It’s just not profitable to be a cocoa farmer. According to Oxfam, less than 5 percent of the price of a typical chocolate bar goes back to the cocoa farmers; for many, this translates to an income of only a few dollars a day.
Cocoa farming is an extremely labor-intensive process, and a whopping 90 percent of the worldwide cocoa supply comes from small, family-run farms in West Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Fragmented and isolated, the 5.6 million cocoa farmers around the world have little to no bargaining power. Most are forced to accept whatever price they’re offered for their crops, regardless of whether they earn a profit or take a loss.
With such an inequitable market structure, more and more members of the next generation of potential farmers are opting to move to larger cities with better job opportunities. In the Ivory Coast, for example, the average age of a cocoa farmer is roughly 55. Both the farmers and the trees are aging, and with little ability to invest in the future, the industry faces serious challenges. Add to that an increased worldwide demand for the crop, coupled with low productivity, and the future seems even bleaker.
Read more at ENN affiliate Triple Pundit.
Box of chocolates delight image via Shutterstock.