The Bitter Future of Chocolate: Climate Change and Agriculture

As I watched my younger brother finish up the last of his carefully rationed Easter candy from a few weeks ago, I began thinking about agricultural changes throughout the world. 

I was intrigued when I found that NOAA released an article about this very issue in 2014 following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Chocolate has been around for thousands of years in several iterations. The ingredients needed for production are quite particular about where they will take root: typically within 10° north and south of the equator. The article claims that “the world’s leading producers are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana produce over half of the world’s chocolate”.Consider that this small region is able to grow the cocoa powder for all of the world’s Valentines days, and day-after clearance chocolate.

As the world heats up, this raises a problem for the region. The temperature range that the cocoa beans can grow into is very slim, and should climate change influence global temperatures, this margin for growth becomes even slimmer. The problem being not the heat, but the heat’s impact on water and humidity. EcoWatch advertises that cacao beans often grow best with between 80-100% humidity. Scientists are worried that as flood and droughts become more common, this will impact most of the agricultural available locations in the world, and plants like cacao trees that require stable temperatures year round will falter as weather patterns shift.


The unsung impact of this also comes back on the farmers. As weather grows more unreliable, farmers are forced to move into less reliable locations, often deeper into the jungle to have a successful harvest. The worse-case scenario being that the capitalist market drives farmers to clear rainforests to have available farmland left. The Fair Trade Foundation claims that “ninety percent of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms by about six million farmers who earn their living from growing and selling cocoa beans.”

This means that should the world choose to live in a world without chocolate, and one that centers the lives and rights of those that grow our food throughout the world, climate policies must be taken seriously. It is also imperative that climate-aware policies and practices are implemented throughout the world. This desert is not alone, hundreds of plants face this threat with each day that we do not take global action.

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