Chocolate – the food that God gave us is loved by about two-third of the population, and other than going upwards, there isn’t any indication that we, the Australians will stop savoring our most favorite treat anytime soon. And why would we devoid ourselves from the heavenly pleasure that chocolates can give us?
Numerous studies have already shown us that the chocolates that contain higher percentages of cocoa in their uncontaminated forms can do wonders for our bodies in numerous ways. Cocoa beans are abundantly rich with a natural chemical called ‘flavonoids’ and flavonols are exceptionally good for us in a plethora of ways. This chemical is best preserved in handmade chocolates and chocolate makers like Schokochocolates.com are using delicate, time-consuming and careful steps in sourcing and using uncontaminated cocoa with no additives and chemicals in their chocolates, not only to give every batch of handmade premium chocolates their unique and distinctive tastes but also to make all the health benefits available to the chocolate lovers.
However, it seems that distressing clouds of uncertainty are appearing on the horizon as the chocolate manufacturers are concerned about if the cocoa production would be able to cope with the speedily heightening demand for chocolate around the globe.
As the industry specialists suggest, cocoa production needs to be increased by 25%, or 1 million tons by the end of 2020 to meet the growing demand. However, the present scenario of cocoa production is not syncing with the demand projected by the chocolate manufacturers around the world. Global climate change, land abjection, spreading of pests and diseases, alternative produce that require less time for yielding and demanding fewer steps for preserving the crops, shortages of labor and widespread political instability throughout the arable lands etc are continuously jeopardizing our ability to corroborate the current production levels.
Now let’s have a detailed look at the problems to get a better grip.
- Cocoa is a product of having a wide-trading chain with highly speculative nature. As a result, despite having a sumptuous persona, the farmers who sweat the most reap the least rewards. Then there are the fluctuations in world market price of beans caused by speculation. So, in most cases the farmers get to receive only 7% of the price of a chocolate bar. But, since most of the handmade chocolate makers source their cocoa directly, the farmers might receive between 40 and 70% of the price of the finished product. But as the handmade chocolates are still making their ways to the consumers, the overall scenario doesn’t hold too much of a promise for the cocoa farmers.
- In the wet tropics of West Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, millions of smallholder farmers in rural areas depend on cocoa farming for their livelihoods. As these farmers lack technological know-how and necessary Government back-up, farmers have been meeting the demand for years simply by amplifying farming, which typically results in deforestation. This creates a two-prong problem – first the land is losing fertility by over-farming and there are hardly any spare lands for new plantations. So, it is now suggested that, by 2050 about half of the presently arable land will be unfavorable for future cocoa farming.
- Usually a ton of dry cocoa beans can be yielded from an area of one hectare. But disease, pests and declining soil fertility act as catalysts and the knock-on effect cause an average of only 10% of the potential yields from cocoa plants.
- Though the newly deforested lands are fertile and can provide substantial cocoa yields, unfortunately that only sustains for a few years. The reasons for that are - natural organic matter and nutrients which are pre-wedged get rapid exhaustion and they are not quite replenished quickly as one can hope for, because most of the times farmers lack the knowledge of how to do that and then there is the reason of the cocoa beans getting price-sensitive.
- In the available farming land, most of the cocoa trees that are still producing crops are mostly beyond their generative years. And ironically the farmers who keep cultivating are also getting older. But the young people aren’t too keen to fill up the vacant lot since they are pulled in by the cities. As a result, the cocoa industry is facing an acute shortage of available labor and, as we all are very much aware of the fact that the cocoa industry is heavily labor-intensive. Once the world’s largest cocoa producer, Cote d’Ivoire is seeing unfortunate stagnation for the lack of necessary labor caused by the decade-long civil war.
So, what can we do about the problems? What can be the ways that might help sustain our love for chocolates?
The key seems to be simple enough - to enhance the sustainability, productivity and viability of smallholder cocoa production and to achieve that by providing support directly to the farmers and making sure that scientists lend us their vision, knowledge, technical and scientific know-how to achieve all of the above.
Let’s have a look a few steps that may help a boost in cocoa production and achieve sustainability as well:
Identifying the impact of cocoa production in key areas should be the first step to the daunting task at hand. The assessment will find out the positive aspects of the existing practice of cocoa farming. Furthermore, a clear and precise understanding about the cocoa economies will identify the socioeconomic bottlenecks that must be eradicated. The research should also be directed towards finding sustainable cultivation methods that are specific to each cocoa growing region. We should also invest in finding safe pest control methods and alternative and environmentally safe ways to face diseases, pest controls and natural fertilizations.
Application of the Acquired Knowledge:
As we have discussed earlier about the problems causing the downward spiral of cocoa production, the biggest challenge would be to implement the solutions due to the under-developed infrastructure and political and social unrest. A strong alignment of all the relevant stakeholders is a must to observe the scientific findings come out of extended research. The coalition will also prevent unwarranted inflation of production costs.
One thing to ponder over here is that the approaches for implementation techniques will be different from region to region as there are multifaceted cultural, economic, political and financial factors contributing for varied responses. And the success of applying findings efficiently will ultimately rely on community level organizations since the farmers are the ones who will see through them.
Restructuring the Existing Marketplace:
The existing market-structure isn’t always conducive to avail sustainability. So, a proactive market structure associative of cocoa grown regions will be beneficial for the ultimate goal. People knowledgeable about environmental degradation can play a positive part when and if steps like limiting expanding of cultivable land and by doing that causing apparent loss or limiting livelihoods. To offset those negative impacts from peoples’ perception, complimentary products that can be utilized in cocoa grown regions should be introduced. Educating the end-product consumers about tropical environmental degradation may also help restructure the existing market in a positive way. And most importantly, eradicating the middlemen sucking off from the farmers will benefit the farmers significantly, and when that happens, farmers will have more money to invest for sustainable cocoa production.
Creating A Well-Educated Workforce:
There can absolutely no doubt that a well-educated workforce throughout the cocoa growing regions will be the most influential factor, for keeping the rest of the world satiated with chocolaty flavor. For that to happen, aid donors and non-profit organizations along with chocolate manufacturers all over the world can formulate joint initiatives which will be governed by the respective governments and provide training programs covering theoretical and technical aspects of cocoa growing.
So, we can see that the problems indeed can become acute if left untreated. On the other hand, if we can stage a unified act and render a cumulative effort from all the parties concerned, cocoa production can be unhinged and run smoothly for the days to come.
And the world can indulge in its favorite treat unabated.