Annie Berest

Cocoa: a tourism resource with economic and cultural potential that is undergoing a serious crisis

Annie Berest

Cocoa: a tourism resource with economic and cultural potential that is undergoing a serious crisis

For months now, the drastic increase in cocoa and chocolate prices has been discussed in various media, highlighting the complexity of an industry in which a few impoverished countries produce a valuable resource without obtaining equitable benefits. The International Cocoa Organization (ICO) forecasts a shortfall of 374,000 tons of cocoa, the third consecutive annual deficit. This shortage has led to record prices, with a ton of cocoa reaching $10,000 on futures markets, an increase of 143% in one year.

Behind this price increase are several important factors. Heavy rains and unseasonal droughts have ruined crops in West Africa, negatively impacting thousands of smallholder farmers. The International Cocoa Organization (ICO) has reported a consecutive annual shortfall in production, with an estimated shortage of 374,000 tons of beans. These climatic problems and rising cocoa prices not only affect producers, but also have repercussions on consumers and the global economy.

In addition, diseases such as the swollen shoot virus and illegal mining have reduced production in these countries, while the aging of cocoa trees also contributes to the decline in supply. This is compounded by speculation in futures markets, which has exacerbated cocoa price volatility.

The impact on the chocolate industry is significant, with effects on consumer prices that will be felt later this year and next. Major consumption seasons, such as Christmas and Easter, will experience high prices, affecting both consumers and confectionery companies. Falling production in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, which has been 467,000 and 448,000 tons respectively in the last three seasons, has contributed to the current shortfall in world cocoa production.

For cocoa farmers, higher prices do not translate into significant direct benefits. Poverty persists among smallholder farmers, who receive few benefits despite higher cocoa prices. The concentration of production in a few countries increases the vulnerability of farmers to market fluctuations and extreme weather conditions. In addition, the lack of support and specific policies aggravates the situation, as it is crucial to implement measures that ensure a fairer distribution of benefits in the cocoa value chain.

Looking ahead, the cocoa industry faces an uncertain outlook. Even higher prices are predicted due to continued supply shortages caused by droughts and other adverse weather factors. Experts such as Pierre Andurand warn of a possible "price explosion" if the stock-to-grind ratio collapses, with prices potentially reaching $20,000 per tonne by the end of this year or next. This scenario underscores the need for a sustainable approach that includes paying producers fairly and combating deforestation and child labor on cocoa plantations.

Cocoa is a valuable resource on the global market, but represents a complex challenge that requires concerted action to ensure sustainability and equity in the industry. Rising cocoa prices are a reminder of how climatic and economic factors are interconnected, affecting millions of smallholder farmers and consumers around the world. To address these challenges, it is essential to develop specific policies and support measures in both producing and importing countries, as well as to promote sustainable and fair agricultural practices that benefit smallholders and ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for all involved in the cocoa value chain.

Cocoa as a tourism resource

Despite these challenges, cocoa has significant potential as a tourism resource. Cocoa tourism can provide an additional source of income for producers, improve sustainability, and promote local culture and heritage. This type of tourism includes visits to cocoa plantations, chocolate factory tours, chocolate making workshops and cultural experiences related to cocoa.

Benefits of cocoa tourism

Cocoa tourism challenges

The future of cocoa as a tourism resource

Cocoa tourism has a promising future if the challenges are properly addressed and the opportunities are seized. To achieve this, collaboration between cocoa producers, governments, NGOs and the private sector is essential. Together, they can develop adequate infrastructure, provide training and capacity building, and promote sustainable and fair practices.

In addition, the growing demand for fair trade and sustainable products offers a unique opportunity for cocoa tourism. Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing the origin of the products they consume and in supporting small producers and responsible practices. Cocoa tourism can meet this demand by offering authentic and educational experiences that connect consumers with producers and their communities.

Cocoa is not only a valuable raw material for the chocolate industry, but also a tourism resource with significant potential to generate additional income, promote sustainable development and preserve local culture. As cocoa tourism continues to grow, it is essential that policies and practices are adopted that benefit producers and their communities, thus ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for all involved in the cocoa value chain.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the admirable initiative of the Tourism and Society Think Tank for the creation of the World Cocoa and Cocoa Derivatives Tourism Destinations Network, led by Ms. Amora Carbajal. This network represents a significant step forward in the promotion of sustainable tourism and the valorization of one of the most emblematic resources of cocoa-producing countries. The implementation of this network not only strengthens the local economy and diversifies sources of income for small producers, but also promotes cultural heritage and sustainable agricultural practices. The Network is a crucial step towards creating a more just and prosperous future for cocoa growing communities around the world.

Author: Annie Berest


The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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