Valentine’s Day might as well be called Chocolate Day, so closely is it associated with the delightfully addictive flavoring. Cocoa, the essential ingredient in chocolate, is made from the fermented, dried and roasted beans of the tropical cacao tree. About 60 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced in just two countries: Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
Rounding out the top 10 cocoa-producing countries are Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Dominican Republic and Colombia.
See the map below of cocoa production in the year 2000 on Resource Watch:
As the world’s people get wealthier, they demand more meat, sugar and chocolate. While demand for chocolate might someday outstrip supply, many countries have been seizing this opportunity by increasing production.
Global cocoa production has nearly tripled in the last two decades, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia have all about doubled production during this time, but the country that has boosted production the most by far is Peru, with a six-fold increase between 1997 and 2017, FAO statistics show.
Deforestation and child labor are major issues plaguing the $100 billion dollar a year chocolate industry. Some of the recent increase in Peruvian cacao production has come at the expense of carbon-rich tropical rainforests. In 2017 the Amazon Conservation Association used satellite imagery to show that United Cacao, a publicly traded company, had been chopping down 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of primary Peruvian forests for a cacao plantation. That same year the London Stock Exchange pulled the stock from public trading.
The Cocoa and Forests Initiative represents a commitment by cocoa-producing countries Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and key cocoa and chocolate companies to end deforestation and forest degradation within the cocoa supply chain. This initiative was launched in 2017 by the World Cocoa Foundation, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, IDH, and The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit. Several organizations coordinate with the initiative, including the World Resources Institute.
Colombia joined the initiative last year and announced that it is committed to producing deforestation-free cocoa. It is the first Latin American country to make this commitment.
In West Africa, as many as 1.5 million children work in cacao production, according to the International Labor Rights Forum, but many sustainable certifications prohibit deforestation and child labor.
Sustainable certifications such as Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance ensure that commodity production is free from forced and child labor, and most certifications prohibit sourcing some recently destroyed primary forests. According to research published in Biological Conservation, only 2 percent of cocoa producing farms had sustainable certifications in 2014, although this data does not include all certifications. The authors published the certified commodity crops data in a map, displayed with cocoa production on Resource Watch below.
You can overlay cocoa production with data from Global Forest Watch on recent tree cover loss, as shown below. The tree cover loss dataset is helpful for identifying risks and trends in forest cover but may be too coarse to monitor all vegetation changes. Global Forest Watch is working to obtain data appropriate for monitoring small cocoa farms.