With the excess of chocolate available for Valentine's Day, it might be hard to think of chocolate as a limited resource, but according to food scientists, Harold Schmitz and Howard-Yana Shapiro, the future of chocolate is not as solid as we might believe. The delicate cocoa tree has always been difficult to produce; it only grows in very specific environmental conditions, requiring rich, well-drained soils and a considerable amount of heat and humidity. These conditions, however, are also ideal for a host of pests and diseases which now pose a significant threat to cocoa production.

"Witches' Broom" and "Frosty pod rot," are just a few of the diseases that threaten cocoa production, and have already killed groves of cocoa trees throughout Latin America.  While these diseases have not yet spread to the cocoa hubs in West Africa, the same issues are still plaguing cocoa farmers there too. Adding to the complication is the fact that cocoa farmers are often unable to acquire the best tools to prevent diseases or the know-how to use them.

Scientists are interested in developing hardier, more disease-resistant cocoa trees, but have yet to do so.  Others are also working hard to increase the sustainability of cocao trees by working closely with each hub of cocoa growers worldwide - an important aspect of the struggle to remember, since each individual area faces different environmental issues in regard to cocoa production.

However, Shmitz and Shapiro posit that "getting all these resources to poor, remote farmers so that they can become better off and better connected is a job too big for any single government" and it will take "innovative, energetic coalitions" working together to make cocoa a truly sustainable crop in the long run.

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Source: "The Future of Chocolate" from the Scientific American

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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