Recently, chocolate has been near and dear to my heart. From the coffee-chocolate flavored beer at Blue Lab last night at the FD fund raiser, to the inappropriate “Sophia’s Chocolate” nickname a friend of mine just incurred from his fraternity composite, chocolate has been on my mind. But the world could be facing a severe chocolate shortage by 2020, says a March 14th Business Week article.
Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl was cast away by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans, and cocoa beans were used as currency by the Aztecs who required it as a form of tax or tribute to lands they ruled over. When the chocolate craze hit Europe, it drove the slave market, as growing the beans is labor intensive, slow, and all around unpleasant. This brings us to today’s issue:
Demand for chocolate continues to grow, the industry expanding handsomely. The worldwide increase of the middle class has added many more consumers who have the disposable income to buy chocolate (considered a luxury good).
“China, India and other developing nations are gradually finding their sweet-tooths. Brazil, itself a producer, is nibbling itself into the band of top-consuming countries. Europe and the U.S. consume almost 70 percent of the world’s cocoa; West Africa now accounts for more than 70 percent of global cocoa production. Between 2002 and 2010, increased cocoa consumption in Europe and the U.S. made up 46 percent of global growth, or 337,000 metric tons, according to the International Cocoa Association.” –Bloomberg
Cocoa farmers (who mostly are located in remote parts of West Africa and Southeast Asia) on the other hand are hurting, being some of the poorest farmers in the world, with declining crops yield, income, and quality of life. They don’t have access to the training and tools needed to sustain the increases in productivity necessary to meet future demand. Governments and research have largely not invested in cocoa for the necessary advancements in cocoa farming (particularly compared to soy, wheat, and corn), resulting in little modernization in the farming techniques (still using machetes rather than plows). Rehabilitation of farming practices and increased technologies can more than triple crop and income for these poor farmers. Here again, we see an increase in technology necessary for a rotation upward of productivity, and these farmers could really use it.
Furthermore, though a social issue, modern cocoa farming has led to child-trafficking, child-labor, slavery, conflict financing, to name just a few specifics of a generally bad working condition for the farmers.