It has been painful to watch the news lately and see what is happening in Brazil and Bolivia. Forest fires are burning huge swaths of rain forest and show no sign of stopping. Satellite photos reveal much of the Amazon basin covered in dense clouds of smoke. This is an ecological tragedy, but it is an entirely man-made one. These fires are set by farmers and ranchers who want access to cleared land. The jungle is inconveniently in the way.
What does this have to do with the cacao industry? Plenty.
Growing cacao is a great way to preserve rain forests as cacao trees require a forest canopy for shade and nutrients. Burn that away and you can't grow cacao. If cacao farming was as profitable as cattle ranching there would be no incentive to burn the jungle down but it isn't. It is not even close. Until chocolate buyers worldwide are prepared to pay a fair and equitable price for cacao, and work closely with farm communities to ensure that quality standards are maintained the forests will continue to burn.
For a good introduction to this issue by a journalist in Quito, Ecuador. Check out the following link, courtesy of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute: