Global Chocolate Supply Crisis Looms as 'Swollen Shoot' Virus Menaces Cacao Trees

By Leira Aquino

Apr 25, 2024 02:49 AM EDT

Global Chocolate Supply Crisis Looms as 'Swollen Shoot' Virus Menaces Cacao Trees
The cacao swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD) is posing a serious threat to the global chocolate supply as it spreads across cacao trees in West Africa.
(Photo : SIA KAMBOU/AFP via Getty Images)

The global chocolate supply is under threat as the cacao swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD) continues to spread across cacao trees in West Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ivory Coast, according to a research published in PLoS ONE. 

This virus, primarily transmitted by mealybugs feeding on cacao trees, has led to significant harvest losses, ranging from 15% to 50%.

Millions of Cacao Trees Lost

"Pesticides don't work well against mealybugs, leaving farmers to try to prevent the spread of the disease by cutting out infected trees and breeding resistant trees," Benito Chen-Charpentier, one of the authors of the study and a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Arlington, said, as reported by

This has resulted in Ghana losing over 254 million cacao trees in recent years. The economic impact is compounded by the high cost of vaccines for the trees, which also leads to reduced yields.

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Innovative Strategies to Combat CSSVD

To address this crisis, researchers from various institutions, including the University of Kansas and the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, have collaborated to develop innovative strategies. 

They have utilized mathematical modeling to determine optimal spacing for planting vaccinated cacao trees, aiming to prevent the spread of the virus between trees.

"What we needed to do was create a model for cacao growers so they could know how far away they could safely plant vaccinated trees from unvaccinated trees," Chen-Charpentier explains.

These models offer a promising approach to protect crops while optimizing harvests, providing a potential solution to the ongoing cacao tree virus threat.

READ MORE: Planet A Foods Raises $15.4 Million Funding to Expand Global Presence of Its Cocoa-Free Chocolate Brand

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