Cocoa Beans and the Rainforest: The Harsh Truth Cocoa Beans and the Rainforest

Cocoa is a high-demand crop around the world. It’s easy to imagine why. Cocoa beans are used in chocolate as well as many other candy bars, drinks and beauty products. Chocolate alone already drives that production up quite significantly. In 2019, the chocolate industry reached a global market size of $137 billion. Switzerland is the leader in per capita consumption, with an average of 8.9 kg (19.8 lbs). Europe corresponds to a 50% slice of the global chocolate market.

Such high demand for cocoa beans poses a serious threat for the rainforest. As an eco-conscious casino brand, Slothino is always trying to raise awareness about important environmental topics. Before making your next deposit and claiming your Slothino casino bonus, learn more about the impact of cocoa beans production and the harsh truth about it.

Cocoa: Delicious, but Demanding

Cocoa is a versatile crop, which can be used in a number of different products. Of course, chocolate is number one, but cocoa beans are also used to produce many other sweets, beauty products, cocoa powder and cocoa butter. This leads to an increasing demand. The chocolate industry alone is expected to double its production over the next three decades. But that’s just how things usually work, so there is nothing new up until this point. Cocoa, however, has one major problem: its production is also quite demanding.

First of all, the cocoa tree requires very specific conditions. Since it requires a warm and humid climate, cocoa production can only occur 15 degrees north or south of the Equator. The process itself is also very labour intensive, and is done manually. It takes from 3 to 5 years for cocoa trees to bear fruit. These fruits, also called cocoa pods, must be cut down from the trees manually. Each tree bears around 30 fruits.

The pods are sliced open. Each pod has around 20 to 40 seeds. The beans are surrounded by a white pulp, which is a crucial part of the process. After removing the seeds, they must be covered with leaves and left to ferment for three to seven days. Once that’s done, the beans are left to dry under the sun for another week.

As you can see, producing cocoa beans is no easy feat. When adding an increasing global demand to the equation, it’s easy to imagine that this whole chain could collapse at any moment. In turn, cocoa farmers need to expand their production.

The Bitter Truth About Cocoa Production

Now this is where cocoa production becomes a serious threat to the environment. Since cocoa only occurs under very specific conditions, there is no option other than clear up more space. Roughly 70% of the cocoa production around the world comes from West Africa. Ivory Coast and Ghana are responsible for half of the global cocoa production. Native tropical rainforests have come under threat in these countries because of the growing need to expand cocoa production. As the global demand continues to rise, farmers advance further into the rainforest, which obviously leads to deforestation.

At the same time, the practice is also damaging to cocoa itself. The rush to increase production often leads to poor practices, which in turn drains the soil of nutrients, results in lower yields and drops the overall quality of the cocoa beans. Cocoa also needs to grow under the shade of taller trees. However, in order to match the demand and speed up production, it’s not unusual for farmers to plant cocoa trees under direct sunlight, which also diminishes the quality of the final product.

As you can see, the exponential increase in cocoa demand is damaging to the environment and to cocoa plantations as well. African rainforests are home to many species such as chimpanzees and the African Forest Elephant. Cocoa production was a large factor in the decrease of their populations.

No New Deforestation for Cocoa Initiative

Fortunately, you don’t need to stop eating chocolate in order to help. Many environmental protection organizations have already taken notice of this issue. Programs across the globe, such as the Rainforest Alliance, Roundtable for a Sustainable Cocoa Economy and the World Cocoa Foundation are already taking action. These organizations work closely with local communities, providing them with better and more sustainable practices.

You can also buy products from companies that have commited to no-deforestation cocoa and produced without slave labour. Mighty Earth, responsible for a ground-shaking report in 2017 that shed light on the cocoa deforestation problem, played an important role in getting more companies to commit to the initiative. Since then, Hershey’s, Barry Callebaut and Godiva have all taken action in that regard.

Do your part by only buying chocolate and other products that only use certified no-deforestation cocoa. This way, you can also do your part. Now grab your favorite chocolate bar, visit Slothino and come hang around with us. Stay a while, Play a while!