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.