Randall Mayes in Quillette:
The major food staples are essential to human survival. Chocolate and coffee are not essential, but try to imagine a world without them. One of the numerous concerns with climate change is that many species will lose their habitats. Scientists are projecting that, in the coming decades, this could lead to the extinction of many crops, including cacao and coffee plants.
The cacao tree is native to the Amazon Basin in South America. Over 1,500 years ago, the Mayas and other cultures in South and Central America cultivated the plant, and today over 90 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms. The cacao plant’s range is a narrow strip of rainforest roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator, where the temperature, rain, and humidity are relatively constant throughout the year.
Like tropical fruits native to Hawaii, the cocoa industry has been ravaged by fungal infections. In Costa Rica, it never recovered from a fungal outbreak in the 1980s. The most recent outbreak occurred in Jamaica in 2016. Attempts by scientists to breed and create new hybrid varieties have failed.