News / Africa

Chocolate's Cheap Thrill at Risk

Workers gather cocoa beans in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 18, 2011.
Workers gather cocoa beans in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 18, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

Valentine’s Day is Tuesday, Feb. 14, a day when millions of people in the U.S. like to buy sweets for their sweethearts.



This year, they’re expected to spend more than $1 billion on Valentine’s candies - mostly chocolate candies, according to the National Confectioners Association.

Year-round, chocolate sales are worth more than $18 billion. It’s one of Americans’ favorite indulgences. But the chocolate industry is worried this little pleasure could get more costly in the years ahead.

Keeping the cost reasonable is the key to success for the companies that make chocolate bars.

“They’re very aware that an everyday candy product needs to be an affordable treat,” said Susan Smith, spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association.

But keeping chocolate affordable may be a challenge in the years to come. Demand is growing, especially as emerging middle classes in Asia discover the delights of chocolate. But the industry is worried supply will not keep up.

Cocoa is the main ingredient in chocolate. And about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa by millions of poor farmers, each with just a few hectares of land.

“And they don’t have a lot of additional capital. They may not have the management skills to actually do a better job,” said Lyndel Meinhardt, who heads cocoa research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to Meinhardt, these small-scale farmers often do not have the money to buy fertilizers that would boost their productivity.

And when the land is exhausted, farmers just clear more, according to Sona Ebai, senior technical advisor with the World Cocoa Foundation.

“We end up moving from one plot to the other, encroaching on forest reserves,” said Ebai.

Deforestation in West Africa is largely driven by slash-and-burn agriculture for cocoa and other crops.

And it’s not just economics working against cocoa farmers. Ebai said farmers have to contend with cocoa’s many natural enemies.

“Just as much as we humans love cocoa and cocoa products like chocolate, it also happens that cocoa is also loved by a variety of pests and diseases,” said Ebai.

Experts say pests and diseases claim 30 percent to 40 percent of the world’s cocoa crop each year.

The chocolate industry needs farmers to produce more to meet growing demand. Small-scale farmers need help to increase their productivity and lift themselves out of poverty, without destroying more rainforest. And West African governments want to help a sector that provides $8 billion in revenues. Ebai said that provides a rare opportunity.

“For the first time, farmers, processors, chocolate multinationals, civil society are working to make sure that the cocoa economy in the world is sustainable, everybody chipping in to make it stay that way.”

Everybody from chocolate giants like Mars and Nestlé to the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is contributing millions of dollars to boost the productivity of West African cocoa farmers.

The goal is triply sweet: improving livelihoods, protecting the environment, and keeping chocolate candies affordable.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid