The Cocoa Tree is one of the world’s most valuable commodities, because chocolate is one of the world’s favorite flavors. Besides craving the creamy and delicious tastes of chocolate bars and candies, we enjoy chocolate in hot beverages, cakes, pies, and puddings, and as a very popular flavoring in milk. Chocolate ice cream, along with all of its many collaborations with other flavors, is also a global favorite.
Perhaps surprising to some, Americans consume less chocolate per capita than many of their European counterparts. According to a 2015 Forbes Report, the Swiss lead the way with 19.8 lbs./capita. The United States only ranks 9th at 9.5 lbs/capita consumption.
Overall, the world consumed approximately 7.7 million metric tons of chocolate so far in 2018, according to Statistica.
Cocoa Trees are Under Threat
Scientists and other experts are predicting trends that may be threatening the healthy development of cocoa production. Chocolate is made from the beans of cocoa trees. Mostly, the cocoa trees thrive in hot and wet conditions within 10° of the Equator. Most of the global output is harvested in the West African countries of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
Threats to future cocoa production come from several fronts. First, according to bigpictureeducation.com, several diseases are increasing the risks to overall cocoa bean output.
- Black Pod Disease: A type of water mold, Phytophthora, blackens and kills the cocoa pods that contain the beans. The damaging spores are carried by wind and water as well as insects, bats, and rodents which cause the pods to rot.
- Witches’ Broom is a fungus that stunts the growth of the flowers and pods.
- Mirids are insects that feed on the trees, leaves, and branches and cause death.
- Other threats are frosty pod riot, vascular streak dieback, and pod borer.
Long-term Threat: Global Warming
While these insects and fungi remain a growing threat to cocoa tree farmers, global warming represents a real long-term concern. Scientists are predicting that the change of climate will change the climate conditions required to grow cocoa and will create a substantial reduction in capacity.
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