October 3, 2011
Chocolate Prices To Be Affected By Climate Change
Climate scientists warn that West Africa´s cocoa-growing regions will be threatened by climate change in the years to come.
In a new study by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), researchers found that the impacts of climate change will most likely affect supply -- and price -- of chocolate, which will have a trickle-down effect, affecting thousands of smallholder farms in the process.
Nearly half of all the world´s chocolate comes from cocoa produced by smallholders in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and global warming in that region means big trouble for the heat-sensitive cocoa plant, and the farmers who depend on it.
Scientists predict average temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, making it too hot for cocoa plants to thrive, according to Colombia-based CIAT.
Dr. Peter Laderach, lead author of the study released last Thursday, said rising temperatures have already affected cocoa crops in some regions. Smallholder farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast have relied on the cocoa industry for decades, he added.
The research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is the first of three studies to look at the effect of climate change on major cash crops in West Africa -- cashew and cotton studies are too follow.
A rise of just 2.3 degrees Celsius (3.6F) is enough to inhibit the development of cocoa pods, which could send yields crashing and prices soaring.
“There is no doubt that these findings are severe,” said Laderach in a recent blog post. “But preparation is the name of the game. There is a lot that farmers, governments, scientists — and key players in the cocoa supply chains — can do to help protect and improve cocoa production. But these measures need to be implemented very quickly.”
“What we are saying is that if we don´t take any action, there won´t be sufficient chocolate around in the future,” he warned.
The predictions are based on 19 climate models. Warmer conditions means cocoa trees will struggle to get enough water during the growing season, restricting the development of cocoa pods which contain the cocoa bean -- the key ingredient in production of chocolate.
“The dry seasons will become more intense; it will get hotter and the plants will be affected,” Laderach told Reuter's AlertNet in a telephone interview.
The areas that would be most affected by the warming would be Moyen-Comoe, Sud-Comoe and Agneby in Ivory Coast, and Western and Brong Ahafo in Ghana, the report predicts.
In a bid to keep up with the changing climate, farmers will likely seek out higher altitudes to continue growing their prized cocoa trees. This would not be without adverse ramifications, as a move into higher elevations could fuel forest clear-cutting, possibly destroying important habitats for flora and fauna, warned the report.
The right step should be researching new varieties of cocoa that have adapted to warmer conditions, said Laderach.
“They would also need to have irrigation systems if places get too dry, and should consider alternative cash crops that could match the climatic conditions,” Laderach added.
Researchers hope the study will help governments, farmers, exporters and businesses take the appropriate steps to tackle the problem.
“Cocoa prices have been on the rise in the past year,” said Laderach. “If there is less cocoa available, they are going to continue to rise - which means the industry will have to make decisions that could cause chocolate prices to increase.”
An industry representative in Ivory Coast, who wished to remain anonymous, said the report reflects only minimal changes and that there is no cause for alarm.
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