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How a chocolate price hike is tied to climate change

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Jeff Tyson

Cocoa plants in Ghana and Ivory Coast have been unable to afford cocoa beans, causing them to halt or restrict processing — a development that is expected to result in even higher chocolate prices.

Michael Hoffmann

Professor emeritus in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Michael Hoffmann is a professor emeritus at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and lead author of Our Changing menu: Climate change and the foods we love and need. He says climate change is expected to significantly impact chocolate production by 2050, though solutions remain to address the stresses on cacao.

Hoffmann says:

“Our beloved chocolate starts as pods on a cacao tree, which grow best under conditions like a rainforest where temperatures and humidity are uniform year long. The trees also require plenty of rain, good soils, and protection from wind.

“Unfortunately, temperatures are increasing without an increase in rainfall, meaning drier soils and more water being drawn from the trees. Less humid conditions are harmful for the trees. Increasing extremes in weather, which is expected as the climate continues to change, is another risk.

“Last year, the Ivory Coast was hit with unusually heavy rains that caused pods to rot and blossoms to drop. Overall, the suitable area for production is predicted to decline significantly by 2050. Some areas will no longer support production.

“Options to save chocolate include shifting production areas uphill and into areas where conditions are still good for cacao trees, another is to plant cacao among shade trees to reduce heat stress and maintain higher humidity, and finally seeking more climate resilient varieties through traditional breeding and genetic modification.” 

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