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Demand for chocolate contributes to deforestation

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, October 19, 2017, 6:44 PM - Demand for chocolate is contributing to deforestation in developing nations, according to a new study.

Twenty years ago, chocolate production had a minimal impact on forests but changes to cultivation practices and an ever-growing demand for cocoa are decimating trees in places like West Africa, Central and South America and Asia.

Study author Mark Noble concludes the demand for cocoa -- combined with changing weather patterns and falling prices for the bean -- has lead to the widespread practice of monocropping, an agricultural practice where the same crop is grown on the same land year after year, instead of rotating them. This can drain nutrients from the earth and make it difficult for the soil to support healthy plant growth.

Noble has noted a similar trend in coffee production, adding that consumer habits in developed countries often have negative environmental impacts in lesser developed nations.

Industry leaders team up

In March, twelve of the world's largest chocolate companies, including Ferrero, Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., Mars Chocolate, Nestlé, Lindt & Sprüngli Group, and The Hershey Corporation signed onto the cocoa forests initiative, aimed at ending deforestation in vulnerable nations.

“We recognize that the current model of cocoa production, which revolves around very small, family-owned farms that too often provide barely enough income to support basic family needs, has been one of the major drivers of forest loss in West Africa,” World Cocoa Foundation President Rick Scobey said in a September press release.

“Given limited economic opportunities, including low price, as well as other factors such as low productivity, lack of infrastructure and education, many poor farmers have encroached into forest areas to grow more cocoa. Lasting solutions to the problem of deforestation must therefore focus on poverty reduction, agricultural productivity, and environmental conservation – much of which the chocolate and cocoa industry is addressing through individual company-sponsored activities."

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