The Chocolate Meltdown Is Underway

How record-breaking prices expose the unsustainable truth of an exploitation system enhanced by climate change.

Ricky Lanusse
The Environment


The chocolate meltdown. Created by author

When you go to that vending machine, chasing a Snicker bar to calm that sugar thirst, do you ever think about where the chocolate coating comes from? Or even know the shape of the cocoa fruit?

Maybe now you should ask: will my — insert favorite chocolate treat — survive the chocolate meltdown?

Cocoa trees and their ovoid-shaped, yellow fruit holding our beloved cacao beans flourish in a narrow band of 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. They are the lifeblood of West Africa, with Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon leading the world in cocoa production. This region is responsible for 75% of global cocoa output, producing together more than 3.5 million tons of the commodity. With 2.2 million tonnes of cocoa in 2022, Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer, accounting for a third of the global total.

The outsized cocoa industry in Côte d’Ivoire was shaped by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the cocoa farmer who became the first Ivorian president after independence from France in 1960. Houphouët-Boigny lured African farmers to cocoa cultivation by offering land ownership. And the high cocoa prices of the 1970s fueled…