Production of Chocolate
Chocolate falls under the category of an unsustainable food. During the process, cocoa is an essential ingredient used. It originates from the seeds (cocoa beans) of cocoa fruits (cocoa pods), which grow on cocoa trees. The process of Cocoa begins in the tropical regions around the equator, where the hot and humid climate is suitable for the cultivation of cocoa trees. After the ripe pods have been harvested, they are then opened and with the use of machetes, beans are removed. These must then be fermented, dried, cleaned and packaged. Once the beans are packed in cocoa bags, farmers are ready to sell the product to mediators. The mediators buy the bags with the raw beans and sell them to the exporters. Only when the beans reach the milling companies, will the cocoa treatment proceed. The beans are crushed and after the shells have been removed, they are roasted and then ground. The result, cocoa liqueur, is used to make chocolate or is further processed for cocoa butter and cocoa powder. “Four Countries in West Africa represent 70% of the world’s cocoa beans. Two of which are The Ivory Coast and Ghana, holding their spot as the two largest cocoa producers. Together they produce over half of the world’s cocoa (Make Chocolate Fair, 2015).”
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Repercussion on the environment (soil, air and water quality)
Across the world, ninety percent of cocoa is grown on small, family-run farms. Where majority of farmers select the cultivation of cocoa as their primary source of income. Between 40 and 50 million farmers, rural workers and their families leave out of the cocoa production. As a result, farmers are left in poverty, making them unsuitable for investing in the maintenance of cocoa trees. Growing cocoa is a very hard hand job, which requires close and continuous attention to cure and harvest the beans adequately. Throughout the year the cocoa tree blooms and bears fruit, producing large pods that must be cut with a machete. Since the pods do not ripen at the same time, the trees must be continuously monitored. In order to produce half a kilo of cocoa, a whole year’s harvest is needed. Being the delicate plant it is, cocoa is easily affected by climate change and susceptible to diseases and parasites.
It has been proven that up to 40% of cocoa collection is lost due to inadequate storage. Since the use of pesticides and chemical manures is favored in the cultivation of cocoa, the lack of information leads to a bad dosage, and used in much higher quantities than necessary. This involves soil contamination and pollution of local water resources. Instead of replacing old or sick trees they expand the plantation through deforestation, thus putting at risk the sustainability of ecological and diversified agriculture. All this affects not only the environment as biodiversity, but also the farmers. Instead of increasing the collection and consequently also the incomes of the workers, it causes lower collections and damage the environment.
Chocolate production generates a lot of pollution. A study published in Science Direct, coordinated by Adisa Azapagic, “analyzed chocolate ingredients, production processes, packaging and waste to assess their environmental effects (Cimons, 2018).” He discovered that chocolate produced in Great Britain alone produces the equivalent of over 2 million tons of CO2 per year. The study also determined that “it takes about 1,000 liters of water to produce a chocolate bar (Cimons, 2018).” The production of milk powder is also very intensive in terms of carbon, especially as dairy cows generate a lot of methane while they produce milk. For this reason, milk chocolate is more harmful to the environment than dark chocolate. Chocolate producers contribute to climate change in two ways: by buying milk and buying cocoa beans from regions where farmers are shaving forests to eliminate agricultural land. The chocolate industry should try to reduce packaging, save energy in production facilities and actively fight deforestation.
Innovative agricultural methods
Conservation of wild nature is a duty of humanity, not a matter of convenience. It is encouraging to know that investing in it contributes to the fight against global warming. By restoring forests, net CO2 emissions are automatically reduced. “A new study by scientists has highlighted the importance of protecting and restoring nature how it could offer climate benefits equivalent to stopping the combustion of oil (Cimons, 2018).” In particular, the study found that “planting more trees and stopping deforestation, improving agricultural land and protecting and restoring wetlands could provide about 11.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions reduction per year, by 2030 (Cimons, 2018).” With that being said, it would be proactive to strengthen our efforts to finance the protection and restoration of natural systems around the world. Many organizations are aware of the urgency and the need of intervention regarding the deforestation caused by an incorrect cultivation of cocoa trees.
Joy Thaler, the founder of Cocoa Compassion, a social enterprise collaborating with smallholder cocoa farmers, is redirecting his energy towards a more sustainable cocoa production. “There is an increasing commitment to reducing deforestation and mono-cropping high-yield, hybrid cacao which excessively deplete and erode the soil and contaminate local water sources that critically serve millions of smallholder cacao farming families living in the narrow swath of land 20 degrees North and South where cacao grows (DeMarco, 2017),” she says. “Sustainable cocoa farming is focused on land revitalization, planting genetically diverse, high-quality cacao seedlings, and local vertical market integration (DeMarco, 2017).” The key is to concentrate all the efforts on the concept of “Sustainable Agriculture Research” that specifically addresses the obstacles that cocoa farmers experience: widespread deforestation, limited access to improved crop varieties, and plantations in use for more than 30 years that need rejuvenation. Chocothon is also working to improve the cocoa supply chain to reduce greenhouse gasses and increase yields. By bringing together software and application developers with supply chain experts, Chocothon hopes to create innovative agricultural tech solutions. Another goal is to build public online and offline tools to engage and interest young people with technology expertise relating to cocoa production. Chocothon is helping cocoa farmers to promote a sustainable cocoa supply chain by introducing them to the use of technology.
The main focus has been on the producers but yet we must not forget about the consumers. Organizations and scientists are taking time to improve the production of chocolate and the impact it leaves. But it is up to us as consumers to make a contribution as well. It goes without saying that Chocolate makes us happy and we prefer not to go without it. Therefore, investing time into knowledge for ways in bettering our choices is crucial for not just our environment but our health. For instance, when reaching for a chocolate bar try dark instead of milk, little steps go along way.
- Cimons, M. (2019, March 18). Keep your love of chocolate from destroying the planet with this one easy fix. Retrieved from https://www.popsci.com/chocolate-carbon-emissions/.
- (2015, October 7). Make Chocolate Fair. Cocoa production in a nutshell. Retrieved from: https://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-production-nutshell.
- (2017, January 17). How a new campaign seeks to ensure a future for cocoa production in
- Ghana, a chocolate epicenter. Retrieved from https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/The-Bite/2017/0117/How-a-new-campaign-seeks-to-ensur e-a-future-for-cocoa-production-in-Ghana-a-chocolate-epicenter.
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