Keep your Christmas chocolate bounty close, folks, because I have some alarming news. Maybe you’re a sucker for a KitKat or a kiss from Hershey’s, and even if you strictly seek out the stuff with a cocoa percentage of 70 and up – it’s going to be grim for everyone. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, um… experts are saying that the whole world could run out of chocolate in the next 30 years.
Dun dun DUUUUUN.
Yep, apparently the precious cacao plants that bring us the miracle that is chocolate in all its forms are struggling to survive in warmer climates. The trees require very specific conditions to thrive, including lots of rain and high humidity. This means that most of the world’s cacao plants only grow in a narrow belt about 10 degrees either side of the equator, in tropical climates in countries in Africa and Asia.
The research published last year titled Destruction by Chocolate highlighted that if temperatures rise by just 2.1 degrees Celcius in the next 30 years, the plants would be put under a lot of stress and would probably struggle to stay alive. And with the rate of climate change thanks to global warming right now, that’s not an impossible scenario.
Can you imagine? I’m expecting full pandemonium and for most people to react like this:
Higher temps will mean less water retention in soil and plants, and so areas where the trees are being farmed right now will become too arid for the cacao plants’ liking. This poses a new dilemma for countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to decide whether to push their production areas into the more moisture-rich mountains by 2050 – at the expense of upsetting what is at the moment a carefully preserved nature reserve. Do they continue to supply the world’s choccy habits, or save their vulnerable ecosystems?
While the demand for chocolate keeps rising and rising as more parts of the world get a taste for the stuff, supply hasn’t been able to keep up thanks to farming methods that are now very outdated and old-fashioned. Doug Hawkins from research firm Hardman Agribusiness said cacao production hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.
“Unlike other tree crops that have benefited from the development of modern, high yielding cultivars and crop management techniques to realise their genetic potential, more than 90 per cent of the global cocoa crop is produced by smallholders on subsistence farms with unimproved planting material,” he said.
And he thinks the possibility that we’ll run out of chocolate in the next few decades could start becoming reality in the very near future: “All the indicators are that we could be looking at a chocolate deficit of 100,000 tonnes a year in the next few years.”
Gulp. So it’d be wise to stock up on your choc right now and for Pete’s sake remember to turn off your damn lights when you’re not at home. The more energy you waste and fuel you burn means less chocolate in the future. And who would want to live in that kind of world?