Say it isn’t so!  The world could lose chocolate in 20 years.

The Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Center warns that chocolate may become as rare and expensive as caviar within 20 years.

A number of factors, including climate change, are affecting the farming and production of cacao, or the cocoa plant.

Howard Shapiro, global director for plant science and external research for confectionery manufacturing Mars Inc. of McLean, Va., said measures must be taken soon to prevent shortages of chocolate.

“If nothing was done, and the temperature was to rise, and the rainfalls were to change and drought became more prevalent … without looking into new farming practices, then there should be a problem, and there might likely be a problem,” he said.

Private enterprise to the rescue:

But for all you chocoholics, before you go and hoard all those candy bars, top chocolate companies like Mars and Cadbury are doing something about it.

The companies are training farmers in sustainable cacao cultivation and working with scientists to map the genome of the cocoa bean, which could help battle crop disease and perhaps even improve flavor.

“I am quite optimistic with the ongoing activities, the genome, farmer training, understanding the problems, that we believe the plants will survive and thrive in the future using the techniques that we know and we can bear on the production of this wonderful crop,” Shapiro said.

Similar efforts are being employed at Cadbury.

“In the last two years, Cadburys has really upped the game, to create more sustainable chocolate, cocoa supply chains particularly,” Croft said.

“We’re managing all the factors reasonably well at the moment and there’s a lot of anticipatory work going on, looking at cocoa trees that are more temperature tolerant, looking at cocoa trees that are more saline tolerant so that as climate change begins to impact them, we have crops that will work through that change.”

In 20 years, he said, chocolate “will still be the world’s favorite treat.”

That was close.

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