Come with me to the year 2050 when there is no more chocolate.
My name is Graeme Codrington. This is Throw Forward Thursday, and we are starting a new series called The End Of, and I thought I’d start with a bang and get your attention.
The end of chocolate. That would be a disaster for most people, wouldn’t it? And it is a real scenario and a real possibility if we don’t do something about our current situation.
You see, chocolate is actually quite difficult. It comes from the cacao tree, and that tree grows in a very limited band around the equator, sort of 18 degrees north, 18 degrees south.
But it needs very specific conditions with very fertile soil and with lots of drainage in it. And there are only a few places in the world where it can grow. And because the tropics are fairly humid and a lot of rain around, these trees are susceptible to fungus and all sorts of diseases, it’s a really, really tough crop to grow.
And there’s a lot of nervousness in chocolate manufacturing and 40 to 45 million people involved in the entire chocolate supply chain, from the farmers to the manufacturers to those people who sell it and the billions of people who eat chocolate every day, there’s huge concern that we might have some serious problems with the world’s cacao trees.
So there are three things that we can do in this end of series. We are not just going to get all hysterical about what could go wrong, but we’re also going to think about what we need to do in order to protect our future.
So with cacao trees, there are three things that need to happen.
The first is we need to help the farmers. Cacao trees typically are in fairly poor countries. Most of the farmers are fairly subsistent and poor farmers and their farms are difficult to get to. They’re often in remote locations. They’re often up against forests and we’ve got to help these farmers to not be tempted to cut down forests to create more land for cacao trees, because that actually is counterproductive. It means there’s more water running through, and it means the cacao trees are open up to more fungus.
So we’ve got to really help the farmers with fertiliser, with thinking through the long term sustainability of their farms and paying them adequately for the cacao fruit that we get from them. And that’s kind of what Fair Trade is trying to do, Fair Trade chocolate, although it probably doesn’t even go far enough, but at least it’s a start.
The second thing that we want to do is actually improve the stock of cacao trees. And here there are a number of projects around the world looking at using some of the new technologies, especially genetic technologies like CRISPR that won the Nobel Prize for Medicine two years ago, that is actually being used to see if we can genetically upgrade the trees in order to make them more resistant to fungus and other issues. And that’s not genetically modifying the fruit that we will eat, but actually genetically modifying the plant itself to be more resistant to some of the problems, especially a particular virus that’s hitting cacao trees dramatically at the moment.So that’s exciting.
So the third thing that we should do is support science. Chocolate manufacturers, chocolate sellers all around the world are taking this stuff very seriously and we can support them, we can contact them. You can contact your favourite chocolate supplier and make sure that they are focused on fair trade and sustainability and the future of chocolates. And you can ask them what they are doing in order to help the scientists make a sustainable future for chocolate.
Seriously, don’t just go and buy a chocolate and eat it. Get involved in the future of chocolate. Otherwise we might be in our lifetimes experiencing the end of chocolate.
Nobody wants that, the end of chocolate. Well, hopefully not.
If we put our minds to it, we can make sure that that doesn’t doesn’t happen.
Thanks as always for joining me in the Throw forward Thursday studio.
I’ll see you next week when we look at the end of something else.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.