World may run out of chocolate in less than 40 years, warn experts

02 January 2018

It has been known for some years now that the world is running out of chocolate. Now, experts have put a time frame on this it could happen in the next 30-40 years because the crop will be harder to grow in a warming climate.

The cacao tree, which produces cocoa beans, thrives only in humid rainforest-like conditions close to the equator. But the fragile plant is under threat from diseases and a changing climate that will suck moisture from the soil and make it impossible to produce a good crop in many regions around the world by 2050, recent reports say.

Currently two West African countries, Ivory Coast and Ghana, produce more than half the world's cocoa but this region is forecast to be hit by rising temperatures and droughts. Farmers will be forced to move crops to higher ground, but there is limited space and many upland areas are protected for wildlife.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is warning that if the temperatures keep rising by 2.1C every year over the next 30 years it could wipe out the cocoa plants entirely. They're speculating that there will be no more by 2050.

Already demand for chocolate outstrips supply as billions of Asians have found a love of the sweet treat like Europeans and North and South Americans. Stockpiles of cocoa are running low and the effects of climate change on yields could add up to a serious global shortage, according to one expert.

Doug Hawkins, of Hardman Agribusiness, said part of the problem is most cocoa is produced by poor families who cannot afford fertilisers and pesticides.

He said, ''More than 90 per cent of the global cocoa crop is produced by smallholders on subsistence farms with unimproved planting material.

''All the indicators are that we could be looking at a chocolate deficit of 100,000 tons a year in the next few years.''

Modern farming techniques could improve yields but that is only part of the answer, experts say.

Scientists funded by chocolate giant Mars have recently mapped the genetic code of cacao trees - almost all of which descend from the same few plants in the upper Amazon.

Now they are working on creating new genetically modified hybrids that they hope could withstand hotter and dryer weather and still produce high quality cocoa.

 search domain-b