Climate Change and Chocolate

Climate change is impacting agricultural production around the world. Tropical crops such as cacao are particularly sensitive to even small changes in temperature and rainfall. In a recent article, Nick Hines at the Matador Network explains that the majority of cacao trees farms around the world are rainfed. As topical areas become dryer, there is a direct negative impact on cacao production, which in turn harms farmer livelihoods. Cocoa bean quality and flavor is also diminished.

What can be done to protect cocoa and the fragile environments where it grows? 

A man crosses a stream in a cacao grove in Belize
Photo credit: Maya Mountain Cacao, Belize

First of all, FCIA and our company members are committed to addressing these problems. We have partnered with experts to promote stronger environmental stewardship and agroforestry systems on cocoa farms and support farmers by offering better prices for quality cocoa. It is important to read the labels on chocolate you purchase and to visit company websites to learn more about how and where they source cocoa.

Secondly, cocoa researchers from institutes such as the Cocoa Research Center in Trinidad and CATIE in Costa Rica are breeding cocoa through natural means that are more drought tolerant or resistant, while maintaining flavor. This is a much longer term investment, but will help future farmers.

By Bill Guyton

Bill Guyton is the Executive Director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association.