We have all heard about peak oil – the point at which – and we may well have passed it already – that indicates that there is now less oil available than the amount that we have already used – or the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum is reached and after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline.
But what about the prospect of peak chocolate! Apparently this is a possibility in the next decade or so if large chocolate manufacturers fail to address some critical issues with cocoa farmers.
Productivity in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – which together account for 60% of global cocoa production – is expected to see a drop in production due to land degradation, lack of investment by smallholder farmers and the declining availability of suitable land due to climate change.
Combine these with rising demand for chocolate from Brazil, China and other emerging markets, and the $9bn cocoa industry is likely to face supply shortages unless it takes action now.
Major chocolate companies, all claim to have invested money in sustainability programmes designed to support smallholder cocoa farmers – who still account for more than 85% of global production. However, this is not likely to be enough to stop poverty-stricken farmers switching to more lucrative crops like palm oil or rubber.
Growing economic inter-dependence means that sustainability pressures in commodity producing countries are more likely than ever to trigger economic risks across the globe. This means that the onus will be on multinational companies to work much more closely with their supply chains to help manage future risks.
In the case of chocolate, climate change and unsustainable farming techniques have already decreased the amount of land for cocoa crops by 40% in the past four decades. At current production rates, the shortfall is expected to reach one million tonnes by 2020.
In key producing countries such as Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, cocoa is grown by more than a million small-scale family farmers, most of whom have never tasted a bar of chocolate and live in chronic poverty. A lack of capital and poor governance is holding back much needed investment in productivity, logistics and rehabilitation of land.
Yes, the lack of chocolate will undoubtedly be a first world problem but you can’t sustain a booming chocolate industry worth billions while the producers are living in poverty.
Something to think about as we start buying chocolates for the Christmas season – enjoy while we can.