The world’s most favorite treat undoubtedly is chocolates. Why wouldn’t it be – not only chocolates make us happy with their heavenly tastes but they are also full of health-goodies. So, people love them irrespective of either being a generic, factory-made bar like the million others before or after from the Goliaths of the chocolate world or the handmade premium chocolates from outfits like Schoko Chocolates originating from Victoria, Melbourne - the chocolate capital of Australia. And the fact that we the Australians aren’t much different than the rest of the world, at least for the case of loving chocolates, can be attested by the fact that about 14.2 million Australians eat chocolates regularly, a whopping 77.2% of the total population. Indeed we are proving that we the Australians aren’t shy about showing our love for our beloved. And that love isn’t going to die down anytime soon, unless there will be no chocolates to love in the future. But before predicting dark times ahead, let’s visit the magical past of the chocolates.
A Magical Past…
Chocolates are produced from cocoa or cacao beans. Cacao beans are the fruit of a tropical tree known as Theobroma cacao, which literally translates as 'food of the Gods'.
For at least three millennia, many cultures of Mexico and Central America were known to cultivate cocoa. The earliest evidence dates back to 1900 BC. Mesoamerican people like the Aztecs and the Mayans could make cocoa solids, a bitter-tasted liquid and cocoa butter. The royals during that era drank the bitter, chocolaty beverages, and thought that they were given to mankind by the God themselves. After the Spanish conquistadors took over the Americas, Europeans got the introduction with chocolate. But instead of taking it as the bitter drink, they started adding milk and sugars into the mix. The hard chocolate, as we know it today, had made their entrance in the 18th century in Italy. But still chocolate was not the thing to the Europeans as it is today until the industrial revolution started shaping the face of the whole world. The chocolate bar much like today was first created by a German company in 1839 – and the world has never been the same since. The British followed suit shortly, and in 1847 the first British company made chocolates. And Australia had been the first export market for British chocolates. The first Australian chocolate company was established in 1922, at Claremont on the Derwent River in Hobart. The factory manufactured cocoa products, chocolates and confectionaries. And from that moment on, chocolates have never ceased to amaze the Australians by their amazing taste.
… But Are We Heading Towards A Bitter Future?
Dark, delightful and decadent – but how much longer can we expect to keep enjoying the world’s favorite treat? The very real phenomenon of the possible scarcity of chocolates is casting dark shadows by looming over the horizon. Let me help you grasp the gravity of the real danger by paraphrasing the wise words of Mr. John Mason – a member of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council – chocolates will become a luxury food much like caviar in 20 years. In simple terms, average Joes like us will enjoy chocolates through our memories, and in popular culture like TVs or in the movies, because we simply will not be able to afford it.
The Australian chocolate market enjoyed a turnover of $ 1.39 billion in 2019 and it is expected to experience a growth by 7% by the year 2026. On the other hand, consumption by the entire globe is ascending by 2-3% annually. On an average, the singular Australian or European or North American eats between 6 to 12kg of chocolate per head every year. But the picture is different in China, India, Eastern Europe and Brazil – their per capita consumption rates are rising rapidly, though they have started form a relatively low base. In 2013, the South American chocolate market exploded by a gigantic 7%, in just one year. In the same time frame, Brazil became an importer of chocolates from being the leading exporter of the same goods.
Everywhere we look, we will see similarity – maybe the intricate details or other trivia is different from region to region but the trend is very much alike. The observation I have just mentioned should have made us smile – everybody is enjoying the gifts that the Gods gave us. But the truth is the industry specialists are anything but happy. They are very much concerned about the world’s ability to meet up the future demands, and they have every reason to be.
Why Should We Be Concerned?
But what are the reasons that may make the chocolates as rare as the caviar? Why are people saying that we may run out of chocolate? Will the Gods stop sending their gifts?
The answer is anything but straightforward. But let me remind you that the first root cause is you, I am also to blame equally and rest of the chocolate-loving people of the world simply because we love chocolates and we love to enjoy the heavenly taste. And for that we keep eating more chocolates than can be replenished naturally.
You probably have heard that West Africa is the largest producer of cocoa. Somehow that region is always ravaged by political turmoil. Corona pandemic notwithstanding, frequent visits of other diseases and outbreaks aren’t uncommon in the region. If we just want to turn a blind eye about those things happening in Africa, we simply can’t ignore other natural reasons. The ageing plantations, farmers who have no training or trained poorly and inefficient cultivation causing poorly managed trees should also be taken into consideration for decreasing cocoa production. Then there is the pressure to meet the growing demand. Farmers cannot but keep increasing the use of fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. This leads to the lands becoming barren, which in turn sets large-scale deforestation in motion. As a result of this, the natural equilibrium is disturbed which causes extreme drought, emission of greenhouse gases and lots of other things. The ultimate result will be a substantial decrease in cocoa production in the days to come.
So, it’s obvious that we have every reason to be concerned about cocoa production. But like many obstacles our ancestors faced just to keep their body and soul together, I believe we can and will be able to face this problem as well. But we don’t have a second to waste for our quest of saving chocolates, because now is the time to start doing things right.