“I think that in 20 years chocolate will be like caviar,” says John Mason, executive director and founder of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council (NCRC).
“It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.”
It literally brought tears to my eyes. The idea of chocolate being prohibitively expensive is not something I even want to contemplate.
The reason for the worry? Cacao is a rainforest plant that likes shade and biodiversity, but it’s grown as a monoculture in lots of sun, which drains the soil of any nutrients and halves the lifespan of the trees. So then farmers have to clear more rainforest to plant more cacao. They’re running out of usable space in West Africa, where most of the world’s supply of cacao is grown, and the yields are down quite a bit. This might not only deprive us of chocolate, but it could also wreak havoc on the economies of some of these cacao-producing nations.
There is some good news. It appears farmers and environmentalists have realized they have common goals and are beginning to work together. Cadbury is currently working with 60 farms in Ghana, according to the CNN article, to figure out how to do this sustainably.
And on the disease-fighting front, Mars is collaborating with the USDA and IBM on a $10 million project that will attempt to sequence the genome of the cacao plant, in order to develop varieties that are resistant to diseases like the fungus that recently devastated Brazil’s cacao crop.