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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid