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Support cocoa farmers or face a ‘chocolate crisis’, warns academic

1 commentBy Oliver Nieburg , 23-Apr-2012
Last updated the 23-Apr-2012 at 12:51 GMT

Photo Credit: ICCO
Photo Credit: ICCO

Chocolate manufacturers will face a serious cocoa supply shortage unless they work to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and allow them to invest in sustainable production, according to an academic.

Prof David Guest from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney delivered a presentation titled ‘The Chocolate Crisis’ at his University last week.

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews.com, he talked about the potential threats to the industry and how a supply shortage can be averted.

Labour shortage

“I see the biggest threat as the declining profitability of cocoa farming for smallholder producers,” said Guest.

“If this is not remedied they will drift to other more profitable and less labour-intensive crops such as biofuels.”

Prof David Guest has traveled to cocoa growing regions to develop and promote sustainable production methods

He said that cocoa farming was becoming less attractive to young people, which would lead to labour shortages and poor management of trees.

Poor production methods

He added that farmers were not investing in improving production leading to poorer yields.

“Farmers currently achieve a fraction of potential yields because of poor agronomy and pests and diseases.”

He said that new pests and diseases had the potential to devastate the industry as evidenced by the spread of witches’ broom to Bahia in the 1980s and cocoa pod borer to Papua New Guinea in the last decade.

Declining production areas

He added that the changing environment could seriously impact the number of production areas.

“Climate change models predict a loss of half of current West African cocoa growing areas by 2050.”

“In the past demand has been met by expanding production areas, but few suitable areas remain,” he said.

High demand exacerbates problem

Global chocolate consumption is rising by 2-3% annually, according to the University Of Sydney.

Guest warned that such high demand and a growing preference for high-cocoa dark chocolate was aggravating the problem.

Preventing crisis

However, Guest was adamant that the crisis can be avoided, and said the industry had a key part to play.

“In my opinion the crisis can be averted by improving the livelihoods of smallholder cocoa farmers so that they invest in sustainable production methods,” he said.

 He called for action at all levels to improve the advice and support given to farmers, to improve the transparency of the cocoa marketing chain, and to increase investment in basic and applied research.

“Chocolate companies and private sector stakeholders have a major role to play in facilitating these changes,” he concluded.

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Prices on producer level

A higher prices for cocoa at producer level would be helpfull a lot. The problem is that multinational cocoa buyers are pressing down prices of raw materials of devoloping or even emerging countries as much as they can and higher prices on consumer level in developed countries to have a maximum of profit.

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Posted by Elke
16 May 2012 | 15h01

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