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Climate Change Endangers Cocoa Production, Bill Gates Comes Up with Solution

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Simple story: one morning, Bill Gates wanted some chocolate for breakfast. The next thing that happened is that his foundation analyzed the prices of chocolate worldwide, the price of cocoa, someone in Ghana prepared an ultra-special recipe for him and delivered it before Mr. Gates finished eating the caviar, with an F22 fighter jet.

After finishing eating his African chocolate, Gates’ assistant said that the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) had already analyzed the facts and that climate change is going to increase the price of cocoa, as temperatures in cocoa-growing countries will rise above the allowed margins for the trees to grow properly. Rainfalls will see a drop at the same time, and this is not good for the $9 billion/year industry.

Now, while the first paragraph was a joke, the second is not.

“Many of these farmers use their cocoa trees like ATM machines,” said CIAT’s Dr. Peter Laderach, the report’s lead author. “They pick some pods and sell them to quickly raise cash for school fees or medical expenses. The trees play an absolutely critical role in rural life.

“Already we’re seeing the effects of rising temperatures on cocoa crops currently produced in marginal areas, and with climate change these areas are certain to spread. At a time when global demand for chocolate is rising fast, particularly in China, there is already upward pressure on prices. It’s not inconceivable that this, combined with the impact of climate change, could cause chocolate prices to increase sharply.”

The biggest issue is that cocoa production represents a high amount of some countries’ GDP. For example, in Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa represents 7.5% of GDP and in Ghana 3.4% of GDP.

If those countries had hills and mountains, there would have been no problem, but the terrain is rather flat, so growing temperatures related to climate change will give them no other alternative than to increase prices with dropping production.

One solution, proposed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would be to genetically engineer cocoa plants so they can grow in higher temperatures and less humidity. I guess that the foundation would have to sponsor that, before we’re left out of chocolate or before someone finds am unhealthy chemically-made substitute.

[via ecogeek]

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