The world’s chocolate industry is driving deforestation on a devastating scale in West Africa.
Cocoa traders who sell to Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez and other big brands buy beans grown illegally inside protected areas in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960.
Illegal product is mixed in with “clean” beans in the supply chain, meaning that Mars bars, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Milka bars could all be tainted with “dirty” cocoa. As much as 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from Ivory Coast.
Rainforests are being cleared for cocoa plantation; villages and farmers are occupying supposedly protected national parks; enforcement officials are taking kickbacks for turning a blind eye to infractions and trading middlemen who supply the big brands that are indifferent to the provenance of beans.
Up to 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced by 2 million farmers in a belt that stretches from Sierra Leone to Cameroon, but Ivory Coast and Ghana are the giants, the world’s first and second biggest producers. They are also the biggest victims of deforestation. Ivory Coast is losing its forests at a faster rate than any other African country – less than 4% of the country is covered in rainforest. Once, one quarter was.
The ballooning global demand for chocolate means that if nothing is done, by 2030 there will be no forest left, according to the environmental group Mighty Earth which today publishes an investigation into deforestation caused by chocolate.
The final, insulting irony is that locals are so poor they could never afford to eat a Mars bar.