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

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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid