In an age of astonishing demographic, technological and climate change, Luker Chocolate has realised that predicting the future of cocoa farming and the industry is an inexact science. When we don’t know what the world will look like next month, anticipating the next decade is a very risky business.
Cocoa is hugely vulnerable to these three variables, and they offer two equally possible futures by 2030. The choice is ours, with ramifications for cocoa, communities and the planet for decades to come.
The demographic deficit in cocoa farming
The first variable is demographics. For over 60 years, the trend in Latin America has been rapid urbanisation. It means that the region’s cocoa and general farmers are getting older, with average age now in the early 50s. Fewer than 10% are under 24. Farming’s next generation is moving to the cities, taking its vitality and innovation with it.
While the reasons are complex, headlines are easy to find. As social media shares aspirational urban images – with richer rewards for less physical effort – leaving the family farm in Colombia seems the smart move.
The technology tipping point
The second variable is technology. It currently exacerbates demographic shifts: as digitisation reaches into virtually every other sector, cocoa farming remains stubbornly analogue.
Technology, however, can be the solution. Governments and growers should look to more developed economies to realise their opportunities. Today, GPS enabled machinery plants seeds to optimise yields. Drones accurately map farms, survey crops, and detect and tackle disease. In Norway, for example, technology has helped to double food production but reduce labour input by 35%.
Technology is the tipping point. It turns farming into a high-tech business – a more intellectual and less physical career choice. As costs fall and yields rise, cocoa competes with the financial returns that cities offer.
Watch how we have enabled opportunities for cocoa farmers with our long term vision:
The climate reality for the cocoa farming
The third variable is climate change, which for Latin America’s cocoa farmers, is a daily reality.
Increasing extremes of drought and flooding accelerate deforestation and landslides. Rising temperatures threaten pollinators, strengthen existing diseases and encourage the emergence of new ones.
Long-term changes demand long-term solutions. Monoculture is particularly vulnerable to climate change, so a new breed of cocoa farmers will explore diversification, adopting sympathetic crops such as coconuts. As well as insulating businesses from price fluctuations, polyculture offers new products and markets, protects the land and can add additional layers of defence against crop-specific diseases.
The choice to make for the future of cocoa farming
If we carry on as before, lack of innovation, labour shortages, crop failures and increasing disease outbreaks will see the end of the family farm by 2030.
Or we can pursue a different 2030. Luker Chocolate has made the choice – pioneering a new form of cocoa farming and creating shared value at origin. We pilot the latest technologies to share best practice across the industry. We trial new forms of irrigation and forestry to tackle climate change. We explore new markets and business models. The goal is a modern, sustainable and viable industry that attracts and retains new generations of farmers.
Both futures are possible – and now is the time to choose the 2030 we want to see.
Luker Chocolate’s collaborative plan, The Chocolate Dream, seeks to transform the chocolate value chain from its origin, building sustainable well-being in the communities of our strategic areas. Find out more about our efforts here.