Around thirty percent of the world's cocoa production is lost to disease every year. But as Hayley Platt reports, a new £1 million quarantine facility in Britain is hoping to change that.
Most of the world's cacao trees are grown in tropical climates like South America, West Africa and Asia. But not these. This is wintery Berkshire in south east England. And these cacao trees are being grown in quarantine, free from disease. The University of Reading supplies 20 cocoa-producing countries with cuttings from two-year-old plants. Paul Hadley is Professor of Agriculture. SOUNDBITE: Professor Paul Hadley, Reading University, saying (English): "The centre of origin of cocoa and where all these varieties come from, is South and Central America and they have got some pretty nasty pests and diseases. We're making sure that when varieties are transferred from one part of the world to another there are no pests and diseases" Britain's cool climate is perfect for growing healthy crops. SOUNDBITE: Professor Paul Hadley, Reading University, saying (English): "This is about 150 days old. There are about 30 odd beans inside. The first thing the farmer needs to do is get rid of that muselage, so what he will do is scoop all the seeds out and ferment the beans and that's where the chocolate flavour comes from." West Africa currently produces around three quarters of the world's supply. It employs two million people. Globally the industry is worth $10 billion But 30% is lost to disease every year And in the 80's Witches Broom wiped out 70 percent of Brazil's cocoa trees. Jean-Marc Anga is Executive Director of the International Cocoa Organisation. SOUNDBITE: Jean-Marc Anga, Executive Director, International Cocoa Organisation, saying (English): "At the moment it is hard enough fighting Black Pod and a number of other diseases in West Africa. But if one were to accidentally introduce Witches Broom for instance in West Africa, that in effect would be the end of the world cocoa and chocolate economy." The world's appetite for chocolate continues to grow, particularly in new markets like China and Latin America. But guaranteeing supply is getting increasingly difficult - Britain's efforts could help safeguard the industry.