Global Warming Will Make Chocolate a Luxury Item
The latest victim of climate change could well be something we all take for granted. It is delicious, ubiquitous, and most people cannot think of dessert without it. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) recently released a report that states that chocolate will soon become a luxury item that a few can afford.
Various reports in the past have been leading up to this same fact. Unsustainable cultivation and labor practices in West Africa (where most cocoa is grown) are often cited as reasons for decline in chocolate production.
This report however, warns that chocolate is a heat-sensitive crop and even an increase of 2.3ºC in West Africa, "will render many of the region's cocoa-producing areas too hot for the plants that bear the fruit from which chocolate is made." This region produces about 70% of the world's cocoa. Earlier this year hundred of millions of trees were destroyed in an attempt to contain a virus. Areas growing cacao trees in the Amazon basin have been falling victim to fungal infections. The Mars candy company is joining USDA to sequence the cacao's genome before the fungal blight reaches West Africa.
The world's increasing appetite for chocolate is partially to blame, as farmers are planting cacao trees in marginal areas to satisfy demand. This leads to weaker trees which are more susceptible to disease. As farmers in Brazil start abandoning cacao farming, they take up more lucrative occupations like logging. Crops like palm-oil and rubber also have bigger financial reward than cocoa farming, which leads some farmers to burn forests for pasture and farmland and abandon them when the nutrients in the soil are used up.