Chocolate shortage: Scientists working to fix cacao crisis

Dion Lim Image
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Chocolate shortage: How the Bay Area is fixing the cacao crisis
Brace yourselves, chocolate lovers! We may be entering a global chocolate shortage.

Brace yourselves, chocolate lovers! We may be entering a global chocolate shortage.

Scientists blame climate change, disease and lack of water for declining crop and crop quality in the world's biggest cacao producing countries like the Ivory Coast.

People found lingering outside San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square location were in a state of faux-shock.

"It would be tragic for all the star-crossed lovers in San Francisco," exclaims one man who was accompanied by his family members, clutching ice cream cones.

The issue is so pressing, some scientists believe chocolate supply could really start dwindling by 2020 or even become close to extinct by 2050.

For this reason, large chocolate maker MARS has invested $1 billion into fighting climate change to prevent a cacao crisis.

Jack Epstein, owner of Chocolate Covered in Noe Valley, has been in the industry for 23 years and sources his product from all over the world.

"There's over a thousand different chocolate bars from over 100 companies from more than 24 different countries and growing."

While pointing to product on his chocolate-covered walls, Epstein explains cacao can be grown in places other than West Africa.

"Everyone is raising their game so they can be suppliers to higher quality chocolate makers. We have Peru, Equador, Bolivia, go to the Indian Ocean and Bali and we have beans, Fiji we have beans..."

In the meantime, plant scientist Myeong-Je Cho at UC Berkeley has partnered with MARS to develop more resistant cacao.

He says the process can take a long time.

"Cacao transformation is really difficult compared to other crops," he says. "But eventually, I think we can make it. We had problems with corn and wheat and now it's very easy."