Cocoa Climate: Chocolate’s cultivation and the future of the Cocoa bean

A hot and costly climate forecasted for chocolate
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 6:42 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Many people would love having an endless supply of chocolate right in their backyard, but there is a reason why a cocoa tree isn’t a backyard garden staple.

The Theobroma cacao trees that produce cocoa beans can only thrive under very specific conditions. The cocoa bean can be grown within 20° latitude from the equator, but thrives within 10° of the equator in areas that have constant temperatures, high humidity, abundant rainfall, nitrogen-rich soil, and have a little barrier from wind.

The cocoa bean is grown across the globe, but two counties in west Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, are responsible for over half of the entire world’s cocoa cultivation.

Research conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the climate within 30 years will be hard on cocoa production. Temperatures in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are expected to rise by 3.8°F by 2050. While the cocoa bean can withstand high temperatures, the added heat takes away the high humidity needed for growth. As temperatures rise, evapotranspiration increases. This causes the moisture from the tree to quickly evaporate leaving the plant too dry to survive.

The increase in temperatures will drive the plants to higher elevations to more sustainable temperatures for growth. This diminishes the area that is suitable for cocoa cultivation to a much smaller area.

This smaller area of cocoa production would struggle to meet the demand of chocolate consumption around the world, driving prices of chocolate products up. However, scientists across the world are working on a plan to breed a new types of cocoa plants that are more water efficient and better suited for the forecasted climate.

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