Demand for cocoa is growing. Assuming 2% annual growth, the world will require at least one million more metric tons to meet needs by 2020. This is the equivalent of increasing output by the present production of Côte d'Ivoire, the world's leading cocoa producer. But while demand is increasing, farm yields are declining - and unless our industry acts now, the situation is unsustainable.
Three key issues contribute to this pressure.
All crops need to be supported by research in the laboratory and on the ground so that they can benefit from higher quality plants, pest and disease control and better agricultural practices. But research takes time, costs money and demands a sophisticated infrastructure to transfer knowledge to the farm. As a crop mostly grown by individual farmers, cocoa historically hasn't benefited from the government or industry support and investment needed to put research programs in place. As a result, it lags behind other major crops in modern farming practices and knowledge.
Farmers struggle with aging cocoa trees that produce less cocoa over time and more prevalent pests and diseases that can destroy much of their harvest. Many farmers also lack basic agricultural skills and do not have the resources to invest in improving their farm operations and infrastructure. On top of this, many farmers don't have access to agricultural tools and products that will enable them to flourish, including good quality plants and fertilizers. These difficulties result in low productivity and incomes, which mean that farmers often lack education, information and financing to improve their skills and output.
There are more than five million cocoa farmers worldwide, many working in remote parts of West Africa, Asia and the Americas. Their sheer number makes it very difficult to make industry-wide changes. To transform the cocoa industry in the systematic way required, we need to partner effectively with NGOs, governments, food manufacturers and other interested groups. By drawing on our collective expertise and resources across the world to deliver a holistic program from farm to factory, we can help safeguard the future of our industry.