The Climate Threat to Chocolate

November 24, 2014

choc-eintsDude. Have you heard what Einstein said?
“If chocolate disappears from the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.”
I read it on the internet.

Washington Post Wonkblog:

Chocolate deficits, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm. Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. It also looks like deficits aren’t just carrying over from year-to-year—the industry expects them to grow. Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. By 2020, the two chocolate-makers warn that that number could swell to 1 million metric tons, a more than 14-fold increase; by 2030, they think the deficit could reach 2 million metric tons.

The problem is, for one, a supply issue. Dry weather in West Africa (specifically in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where more than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced) has greatly decreased production in the region. A nasty fungal disease known as frosty pod hasn’t helped either. The International Cocoa Organization estimates it has wiped out between 30 percent and 40 percent of global cocoa production. Because of all this, cocoa farming has proven a particularly tough business, and many farmers have shifted to more profitable crops, like corn, as a result.

Then there’s the world’s insatiable appetite for chocolate. China’s growing love for the stuff is of particular concern. The Chinese are buying more and more chocolate each year. Still, they only consume per capita about 5 percent of what the average Western European eats. There’s also the rising popularity of dark chocolate, which contains a good deal more cocoa by volume than traditional chocolate bars (the average chocolate bar contains about 10 percent, while dark chocolate often contains upwards of 70 percent).

Below, a very well done and informative piece sponsored by Nestle.





8 Responses to “The Climate Threat to Chocolate”

  1. Well, as the world gets warmer, perhaps the cocoa growing industry will have to abandon Africa but move to Alaska. And in another 50 years, Siberian bananas may be all the rage. As for cold weather crops like peaches and blueberries, perhaps on Mars.

    I know that it’s small compensation for disastrous climate change, but carob makes a decent substitute for chocolate and is claimed to be healthier:

    Of course, those claims just might be carob producers propaganda. And I’m not sure just what AGW will do to carob production – that industry may move to Antarctica.

    • Kiwiiano Says:

      Acknowledging that “Alaska…” may be tongue-in-cheek, we shouldn’t leave the dodgy meme unchallenged.
      The problem(s) of trying to grow any crop out of their climatic band is that even if northern climes become a lot warmer, they will still suffer cold snaps that would obliterate current tropical plants without a few 100’s of millennia of adaptation. They also have wildly different daylight hours that may cause losses and there are no guarantees that the preferred pollinators and their entire supporting ecosystems can adapt to different latitudes.
      The planned crops may well also encounter toxic fungi, bacteria, viruses and competing weeds that are unfamiliar and also require long adaptation delays.
      Equally, those crops may depend of endless permutations of commensal fungi, bacteria and even viruses to succeed, we wouldn’t know until we try to grow them.
      Then there’s the problem of the poor soils in hither-to cold climates, replicating the soils the crops were accustomed to may take many generations, time we won’t have at the present rate of change.
      And what of the temperate climate crops? Where are they going to migrate to?
      Not to mention hopelessly erratic weather that could make growing anything difficult….damn! I wasn’t going to mention that!

  2. Gingerbaker Says:


    While we are at it, I suppose we can all learn to settle for turkey bacon and veggieburgers while we convince ourselves how wonderfully liberating 400 square-foot houses are to live in, as we read the fourth article of the week on the glories and ecological justice of eating insects.

    Meanwhile, the rich our batting our chocolate bars into their swimming pools with their polo mallets.

  3. renewableguy Says:

    Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced.

    I am curious how it is that we eat 70,000 metric tons more than produced. That would mean we have chocolate storage in the world?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Don’t tell anyone, but it’s……(magic!). Magic brought to you by the magicians of the food chemistry industry. Read the fine print on almost any food label and you will find that they are adept at padding and substituting what they have lots of for what is scarce. I can’t recall an exact example, but there are many things out there that are labelled “X” that contain only 2% or 5% “X”, and the “watered down” varieties of chocolate are in that category.

      In actuality, there probably IS some significant amount of storage taking place. Cocoa beans can be stored for several years, and they are traded on commodity markets. Us chocolate lovers had better hope that there’s enough in storage and in the pipeline to keep the flow smooth and the price down.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    I gave been in a state of denial about the looming chocolate crisis since if first came on scene along with the related coffee and tea crises. (I wonder if there will be a cocaine or marijuana or heroin crisis also? Is AGW compromising those crops as well?). Peter, you should not be reminding us of this problem (I speak of the chocolate, not all the others)—–leave us in denial.

    Einstein was right, although I don’t think mankind would last four years. Once the chocolate wars begin, they will quickly escalate to full-blown nuclear exchanges and it will be “nuclear winter” time. (The Chinese have several hundred warheads and Putin is reputed to be a chocolate freak).

    And CAROB!!!??? I’d rather lick the rear end of one of T-L’s toads! No, I’m cleaning my weapons and getting ready to TAKE my chocolate if necessary. My health is dependent on my daily dose of Dark Chocolate Raisinettes—-high in anti-oxidants and they count as part of my “fruit” ration—-a near perfect food.

  5. andrewfez Says:

    “If chocolate disappears from the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.”

    That’s true. If you use chocolate production as a proxy for the health of overall agricultural production, then the point where zero cocoa is being farmed is probably also where a lot of other crops are in significant trouble.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Nice try, Andrew—-since the responses to this post have been pretty silly, one more won’t hurt. Einstein was obviously talking about how grief-stricken mankind would be without chocolate that mass suicides might result. Most cacao is frown in a very small corner of West Africa and it’s hardly an “index” crop for foretelling agricultural collapse. Watch corn, wheat, and rice instead

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