It seems like every week we hear about a new food whose production is disturbed or even endangered. Bananas, chocolate, almonds, and prosecco are on that list. But are they really going to disappear from our lives?
This is not a new phenomenon. Every year, depending on the temperature, the yield of main cultures varies. We’ve seen this exact situation with Florida oranges, whose crops are easily affected by the cold weather. Logically, prices are rising following the supply and demand principle. Wholesalers therefore charge higher costs, and retailers relegate the bill directly to consumers.
If there’s one food that’s associated with breakfast, it’s banana. They are accessible thanks to their low purchase price. There are more than 1000 banana varieties. The most popular one? The renowned yellow banana (Cavendish banana), commonly found in grocery stores.
However, this hasn’t always been the case. Before 1965, the Gros Michel variety was the most consumed. This cultivar has completely disappeared because of the Panama disease, also known as the fusarium wilt of banana. A fungus wiped out the whole Gros Michel culture in Central America.
Nowadays, large banana farms and some diseases still threaten the crops. When there is a disease outbreak, one of the control methods consists of systematically and immediately destroying the affected plants and replacing them with hardier varieties.
But this is also what currently scares us with the Cavendish: it’s a monoculture variety, and it’s found everywhere around the world. Cavendish alone makes almost the totality of all banana exportations, which is why this disease is taken very seriously.
To this day, the fusarium wilt could still threaten our beloved yellow bananas. The fungus, called Tropical Race 4 (TR4), has been found in Malaysia, Australia, and Africa. It could therefore wipe out the Cavendish if nothing is done to stop it.
Just like many people, I could not live in a chocolate-free world. However, the cocoa consumption exceeded the production in the last few years. The supply therefore struggles to keep up with the demand. While chocolate is not endangered, it’s cost could however rise, making it a luxury product.
Big dislocations are also happening: less and less land is devoted to cocoa cultivation, in favour of corn and rubber! Plus, developing countries are discovering chocolate and, just like us, absolutely adore it, which only increases the demand. Cocoa crops are also very fragile and can easily be affected by droughts.
From 1993 to 2007 only, the price of cocoa increased by 87%. It’s alarming to see just how much the prices are constantly rising.
In response to these challenges, researchers tried to create a new variety of cocoa beans that would not only be more resistant to diseases, but also tastier.
The real challenge came to the taste. In fact, cocoa trees have a slow growth, and, in contrast with corn that produces 3 generations in the same year, it takes at least 2 years for one generation of cocoa beans to grow.
Our diet is therefore likely to see many changes in the next few years, especially because of demography and climate changes. Plus, the high demand in niche products and the low supply due to diseases also impact yields. In some cases, the outcome is uncertain, but we may need to spend more on foods such as bananas and chocolate.
Only time will tell us if chocolate fondue and banana toasts will remain a part of our daily lives or if they will become distant memories.
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