Can chocolate be bittersweet?

Cocoa is the raw material present in chocolate: that mouth-watering piece of heaven commonly appreciated worldwide.

In the 2020/2021 season alone, the forecast for the global cocoa production was over 5 million tonnes, in a way of answering a growing global demand for it. Africa remains by far the largest cocoa-producing region, accounting for 77% of the world production.

However, there is a bitter truth behind the sweetness of chocolate. Did you know that around 90% of the production of the purest cocoa is carried out by small farmers who struggle to produce it due to unstable climates and unlikely farming profitability? Let’s go deep on cocoa.

Cracking cocoa beans

With more than 2,000 varieties, cocoa trees need 10 years to grow and develop the right flavours. To be successful, cocoa farming requires very specific climate conditions. The ideal locations for these crops to grow are the most humid and tropical ones – next to the Equator line – where the rains are intense and frequent.

The Ivory Coast is one of the leading producers, with more than 33% of the world’s cocoa, as a result of 2.8 million hectares of dedicated land to this purpose and to over 600,000 small farmers’ work.

Cocoa beans being removed from the pods

However, producing cocoa is getting even more challenging as climate-related issues like temperature rise and rain shortfalls are becoming common. The yearly and monthly minimum and maximum temperatures in the cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire will increase progressively until 2050 by up to 2.0 °C , which means that sweet-spot where cocoa plantation crops have just the perfect conditions to grow will soon be compromised.

Pressure on Cocoa Farmers

At the same time, the amount of pressure in increasing production capacity is taking farmers to cut down forests in order to grow cocoa more intensively, destroying wildlife habitats and contaminating local soils and water streams.

Climate-smart techniques can help in minimising the impacts on production. The international non-profit organizations Rainforest Alliance and UTZ are examples of catalysts for sustainable programmes among farmers.

To cherish natural resources and increase productivity, these organizations endeavour farmers to plant cover crops and to protect the soils from heavy rainfall, using natural pest and disease control and water-saving systems.

Securing decent living and working conditions is also part of their mission. Certified farms are regularly audited, following rigorous environmental, social, and economic criteria that protect biodiversity and foster a culture of respect for workers and local communities.

Pingo Doce and Biedronka have over 80 Private Brand products with UTZ or Fairtrade certified cocoa as an ingredient. Enjoy your chocolate with even more pleasure: look for the certification stamp!