Stepping Forward to Support Cocoa Genetic Resources

The World Cocoa Foundation started the year 2019 by issuing an appeal for the cocoa and chocolate sector to step forward and support the international cocoa tree collections held in Costa Rica (CATIE) and Trinidad & Tobago (CRC/UWI). Today, we have good news to share: Barry Callebaut – the world’s largest chocolate maker and WCF member company – committed new financial resources to support cocoa genetics and joined the Cocoa Research Association.

 

Why is this important?

It’s important on several levels:

  1. the world’s cocoa genetic collections are vital to develop new cocoa varieties for the future in response to climate change, and new disease threats;
  2. the collections have suffered from years of fiscal austerity;
  3. Barry Callebaut is joining a group of companies such as Mars and Mondelēz who historically have supported the international cocoa genetic collections;
  4. Barry Callebaut’s Forever Chocolate commitment to address important sustainability challenges will be bolstered by this move; and
  5. it creates hope that more companies will see the need to do their part to help shore up a scarce resource—cocoa genetic diversity—for future generations, new chocolate products, and to fight known and unknown diseases.

Long time comin’

In 2015, WCF and Bioversity along with a group of important players in the genetic resources field came together to take stock of the existing genetic resources and develop a strategic plan for their support. Companies large and small from branded chocolate maker to cocoa traders were encouraged to step forward and commit to helping. Many have shown interest as the project aims to contribute to finding the cure for the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus, breeding new clones, or discovering varieties that take up little cadmium.

A fourth kind of chocolate, why not a fifth?

It’s not surprising that the company that developed the WholeFruit chocolate made from 100% pure cacao fruit as well as the world’s fourth chocolate, Ruby chocolate, sees both the business case and the benefits to the industry of investing in cocoa genetic resources. These big breakthroughs in chocolate  are only possible if we protect and preserve the international cocoa genetic resources and collections.