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The future of the world cocoa economy depends on the availability of genetic diversity and the sustainable use of this broad genetic base to breed improved varieties.

Decreasing cacao genetic diversity is a serious problem and all its many causes need to be urgently addressed: the destruction of the Amazonian rain forests, the loss of traditional varieties, and threats from natural disasters and extreme weather to material conserved in genebanks and field collections. This loss of diversity increases the vulnerability of crops such as cacao to sudden changes in climate and to the appearance of new pests and diseases.

At the same time, demand for cocoa products has never been higher.

Chocolate connoisseurs – much like those with a taste for fine wines – are willing to pay top dollar for specific cocoa flavours that result from a mix of variety, bean quality, geographical origin and growing and processing conditions. According to the International Cocoa Organization, the annual value of the cocoa market in 2012 was US$ 8-10 billion, and developing economies such as India and China will require a rise of 25% on today’s production by 2020 to meet demand.

Discover more about Bioversity International’s research in cacao diversity by reading the highlights below.

Research highlights

A global chocolate shortage?

Brigitte Laliberté, Expert on Cacao Genetic Resources, talks about the importance of increasing the genetic diversity of cocoa crops to help address the challenges facing the chocolate industry, on CBC Radio Day 6.

Cocoa diversity on the global stage


Bioversity International coordinates the Cocoa of Excellence Programme, which is the entry point for farmers to participate in the International Cocoa Awards – the only competition that recognizes the work of cocoa farmers and celebrates the diversity of cocoa flavours globally.

The vision of the Cocoa of Excellence Programme is to achieve farmers' and producers’ professionalization and the long-term sustainability of the cocoa supply chain, through recognizing, preserving and valuing cocoa diversity, and promoting and providing global recognition of high-quality cocoa.

In October, the 2017 Edition of the International Cocoa Awards took place at the Salon du Chocolat, Paris.

The Cocoa of Excellence Programme, coordinated by Bioversity International,  is jointly organized with Event International in partnership with Guittard Chocolate, Seguine Cacao, Cocoa and Chocolate, Barry Callebaut, Puratos, the CGIAR Research Programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (CRP-FTA) and the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) with sponsorship from CAOBISCO, the European Cocoa Association (ECA), the Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC), Nestlé, the Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Mars UK, and with in-kind contributions from the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies (CRC/UWI), Valrhona, Weiss Chocolate and CocoaTown.

A global collaboration to conserve and use cacao genetic resources

In collaboration with member representatives from various cocoa research institutes and organizations that support cocoa research, Bioversity International coordinates the Global Cacao Genetic Resources Network (CacaoNet) which, in 2012, published the Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Cacao Genetic Resources as the Foundation of a Sustainable Cocoa Economy.

The Global Strategy is the result of a consultation process that drew upon the global cacao community’s expertise involving public and private sector organizations in all aspects of cacao genetic resources, and sets out the priorities for support from all these stakeholders.

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