Many of West Africa’s cocoa-producing areas will be left too hot to grow chocolate if the temperature rises more than two degrees Celsius by 2050.

In fact, areas of cocoa suitability will begin to decline as soon as 2030, as average temperatures increase by one degree Celsius.

The findings are part of a new report by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

The report found that warmer conditions mean the heat-sensitive cocoa trees will struggle to get enough water during the growing season, curtailing the development of cocoa pods. The trees are also expected to struggle as the region’s dry season becomes increasingly intense.

By 2050, a rise of 2.3 degrees Celsius will drastically affect production in lowland regions, including the major cocoa-producing areas of Moyen-Comoe, Sud-Comoe and Agneby in Cote d’Ivoire, and Western and Brong Ahafo in Ghana, the report concluded. Farmers in these areas are particularly vulnerable since cocoa production is often their primary source of income.

“Many of these farmers use their cocoa trees like ATM machines,” said CIAT’s Dr. Peter Laderach, the report’s lead author. “They pick some pods and sell them to quickly raise cash for school fees or medical expenses. The trees play an absolutely critical role in rural life.

“There is no doubt that these findings are severe,” he added. “But preparation is the name of the game. There is a lot that farmers, governments, scientists – and key players in the cocoa supply chains – can do to help protect and improve cocoa production. But these measures need to be implemented very quickly.”

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