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Climate change could shrink chocolate production: report

October 12, 2011 |  8:00 am

CHOCOLATE
Scientists say climate change will eventually claim many victims -– including, according to a new report, chocolate.

As temperatures increase and weather trends change, the main growing regions for cocoa could shrink drastically, according to new research from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

Ghana and the Ivory Coast –- which produce more than half of the global cocoa supply –- could take a major hit by 2050.

Currently, the optimal locations to grow the crop are about 330 feet to 820 feet above sea level, with temperatures of about 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 77 degrees. That range will soar to 1,500 feet to 1,640 feet in four decades to compensate for hotter weather.

Cocoa production, which reached about $9 billion from 2008 to 2009 and accounts for 7.5% of the Ivory Coast’s gross domestic product and 3.4% of Ghana’s, could be in for a heavy slide.

Peter Gleick, a MacArthur fellow and chief executive of the Pacific Institute, bemoaned the potential decline of the sweet treat last week in an open letter to climate change skeptics in Forbes.

Many farmers will need to find alternative crops such as cashews and cotton. But researchers pointed out that as temperatures phase out some fields, others could become prime growing spots.

“Climate change brings not only bad news but also a lot of potential opportunities,” according to the report. “The winners will be those who are prepared for change and know how to adapt.”

Fluctuating weather in the United States alone has already wreaked havoc with harvests for peanuts, wine grapes, pumpkins and coffee beans.

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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