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The Cocoa and Chocolate Industry’s Sustainability


Chocolate is one of the most popular and required products in the modern world. It is a critical component of various dishes and products used by millions of people globally. For this reason, the demand for it remains high, while the industry responsible for its production faces numerous challenges and risks. Most of them are associated with the fact that the cacao trees might become extinct by the middle of the century. The agricultural system and cocoa plantations suffer from environmental and anthropogenic threats such as climate change, pests, poverty, and lack of support to farmers responsible for the production. These factors create a severe problem affecting the whole industry and increase the topicality of environmental and social sustainability in the given sphere. The further disregard of these nagging issues might result in the complete disappearance of cocoa and critical outcomes. For this reason, it is vital to provide substantial support to farmers and focus on environmental issues.

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The roots of the discussed problem come from the peculiarities of Cacao farming. Theobroma Cacao grows in an extremely narrow geographic zone characterized by a specific temperature, moisture, and sun radiation (Decker, 2019). The combination of these factors causes a positive influence on trees and result in a rich harvest allowing farmers to generate revenue and succeed. However, the climate changes observed today resulted in the spread of fungal diseases, which have already destroyed the Central American Crop (Decker, 2019). Additionally, Ivory Coast and Ghana, the regions producing more than half of the global cocoa supply, are characterized by a complex social environment, poverty, and underdeveloped infrastructure (Decker, 2019). It results in the growing topicality of the problem and its worsening.

Negative Factors


The necessity to cultivate environmental and social sustainability in the cocoa and chocolate industry is justified by numerous negative factors affecting the sphere. Thus, pests and specific diseases threaten cocoa production globally (Armengot et al., 2020). For instance, the black rod is one of the most common issues resulting in the estimated 450,000 tones of world production loss (“Pests and diseases of cocoa,” n.d.). Another problem is that any attempt to grow cocoa trees in other areas results in massive pests’ attacks on this plant (“Pests and diseases of cocoa,” n.d.). Aging is another critical aspect as it leads to the growing number of low-producing trees, while new ones do not grow (Whinney, n.d.). In such a way, the industry might become deprived of the cocoa beans needed for production.


Another critical problem linked to sustainability issues is poverty. Statistics show that most farmers’ communities producing cocoa in Ghana and Ivory Coast live in poverty (Whinney, n.d.). About 7 million smallholder farmers have an extremely low level of development and limited access to resources and tools needed to support sustainable cocoa production (Decker, 2019). The aging of trees, climate problems, and diseases demand additional investment to support the high effectiveness of farms and ensure they can generate enough revenue. However, poverty limits available resources and individuals’ ability to hire professional workers (Decker, 2019). For this reason, farmers have to involve children and their family members. These tendencies have a negative influence on the whole industry.


Another problem is linked to the previous one and adverse impacts promoted by it. The exploitation of child labor by farmers deprives them of the chance to get the education and skills needed to support the further development of the industry and cultivation of sustainable farming (Decker, 2019). The absence of career opportunities makes young people leave their homes and find more prestigious and well-paid jobs; however, poor education makes this goal difficult to achieve (Decker, 2019). It results in establishing a negative cycle that cannot be interrupted. Young people had to work hard on cocoa farms and use the same methods as their parents, but the effectiveness of these approaches is gradually reducing.


Finally, the poverty mentioned above means that the areas with cocoa plantations do not have the infrastructure needed to support production. The data shows the low effectiveness of supply chain management in such regions, as farmers suffer from limited access to transportation services (Whinney, n.d.). Furthermore, the underdeveloped infrastructure means the absence of facilities and scientific resources vital for addressing the growing problems and the resolution. For this reason, cocoa farming is viewed as a non-prestigious occupation, which results in the brain drain and the lack of qualified specialists working in the sphere (Decker, 2019). For this reason, this problem becomes a serious threat to the future of the industry.

Sustainability Incentives

Farmers Support

The problems mentioned above imply the need for sustainability incentives to save the cocoa industry. One of the most effective solutions is to provide additional support to farmers and improve their status. The elimination of poverty demands a collaborative effort of governments and global agencies; however, giant international corporations working in the sphere might provide farmers with additional resources to ensure they can renew plantations, protect trees from pests and diseases, and use innovative methods of farming to have rich crops and acquire new sources for the further development. For instance, the International Cocoa Initiative is focused on improving the lives of children and adults in cocoa-producing communities (International Cocoa Initiative, 2020). It will help to minimize the cases of child labor exploitation and lead to the emergence of new chances for youth.

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Sustainability issues can also be resolved by altering the current attitude to cocoa farming. As stated previously, young people do not view working in the industry as an attractive opportunity because of the low prestige and income. For this reason, it is critical to make farming an attractive and rewarding career that will be demanded in the future. The training incentives and coaching for young people from these communities will help to resolve the problem (Decker, 2019). First, educated young people will be able to use innovative methods vital for the cocoa industry. Second, they will shift to environmentally friendly and safe practices to boost productivity (Decker, 2019). It will increase income and resolve financial problems typical for communities dependent on cocoa farming.

Financial Support

The limited access to finances among cocoa farmers is a serious issue affecting the current state of the cocoa industry and its sustainability. It also means that families cannot afford their survival and education for children, which minimizes the chances for positive change. For this reason, the social development of these areas can be supported by providing additional loans with specific conditions (Decker, 2019). Farmers might use them to buy needed equipment, educate their children or workers, or hire specialists needed to renew existing plantations and address the problems with pests or diseases (Decker, 2019). It will reduce the financial burden for farmers and provide them with new opportunities to plan the future growth of the farm.

Environmental Issues

Finally, the discussed problem has several layers, meaning that it is vital to address all of them. Environmental sustainability is one of the critical factors influencing the industry’s future. The shift to sustainable agriculture is a key to future success. Farmers should be provided with the methods to support the high level of cocoa plantations’ productivity by growing new trees and protecting them from pests and diseases (Whinney, n.d.). The minimal use of herbicides, along with adequate protection and cultivation systems, will make farms more beneficial and also provide increased revenue to individuals (Whinney, n.d.). It will also help to reduce the risk of cocoa trees becoming extinct.


Altogether, the cocoa industry faces critical risks and challenges nowadays. The reduction in cocoa trees, poverty peculiar to areas where they grow, and lack of infrastructure might lead to disastrous outcomes. For this reason, it is vital to focus on promoting social and environmental sustainability. The additional training for farmers can promote the shift towards more effective and environmentally practices. At the same time, the provision of educational opportunities for young people and the focus on improving the image of cocoa farming will stop the brain drain and make the new generation interested in cultivating the crop and protecting it from multiple adverse effects. The disregard of existing problems might precondition critical outcomes, meaning that it is vital to promote sustainability incentives in areas producing cocoa and depending on its sales and distribution.


Armengot, L., Ferrari, L., MIlz, J., Velasquez, F., Hohmann, P., & Schneider, M. (2020). Cacao agroforestry systems do not increase pest and disease incidence compared with monocultures under good cultural management practices. Crop Protection, 130, 105047. Web.

Decker, K. (2019). Environmental, social issues threaten chocolate and cocoa. Dairy Foods. Web.

International Cocoa Initiative. Annual report 2020. Web.

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Pests and diseases of cocoa. (n.d.). Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Web.

Whinney, J. (n.d.). Considerations for the sustainable production of cocoa. Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Web.

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