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 Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More