The coco industry is a $4 billion industry, but it’s one that farmers have struggled to break into.
This week, a coalition of agricultural organizations, trade associations and advocacy groups announced a new round of calls for action to boost coco production in the United States.
The call comes as the industry grapples with rising corn prices and an uncertain future in the agricultural world.
It’s the first time the groups have come together to share their concerns about the industry.
“Coco is the world’s fastest growing crop and is being impacted by a changing climate and changing prices, including an unprecedented decline in corn prices,” said the coalition’s co-chair, Mary Lou Bourgeois, who heads the U.S. Association of Corn Growers.
“The industry must diversify and diversify its production models, and that means supporting farmers to make more money from coco.”
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the global coco market grew from $3.6 billion in 1990 to $13.2 billion in 2014.
While there are many factors that influence the growth of the crop, such as crop productivity and the use of genetic engineering to enhance yields, a key factor is the rise of genetic modification and its impact on the crop.
According to the U., agronomists, there’s a strong correlation between crop yields and the amount of genetic information (GM) available to farmers.
The U.K. has also been a leader in GM-intensive farming, with the U2 and The Queen’s Spire in Scotland leading the way.
In the U, the Royal Botanical Gardens in London, the Bournemouth Botanical Garden and the British Museum are among the major breeding sites for hybrids and transgenic varieties.
In 2017, there were nearly 8,000 GM-modified corn varieties in use worldwide.
The coalition calls for a renewed focus on cultivating the crops to provide farmers with the genetic tools they need to thrive in a changing market.
“We need to continue to increase our crop varieties, but also develop new ways to enhance yield and productivity,” Bourgeois said.
“Cocoa is a world-class crop.
If we can diversify our crop production, we can grow coco more quickly.”
The coalition also wants the U of S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide more guidance to the industry about the benefits of genetic modifications to the crop and its role in the food supply.
In addition, the coalition says the USDA should adopt policies that support and incentivize the continued use of crop-specific genetic modification.
“We’ve got to be able to have a more diverse crop,” said Bourgeois.
“That means that we can do things like breeding and cultivating the crop that has the greatest benefit to farmers and the least amount of harm to the environment.”
While the coalition calls on the USDA to do more, Bourgeois also wants them to focus on protecting the health and safety of the food it’s producing.
“I think the food and beverage industry has been really, really supportive of the group,” she said.
The group also wants more action from the USDA and the U-verse Corporation, a subsidiary of Walmart that makes clothes, electronics and other goods made from the coco.
“They’re making products for them, not for the public,” said U-Veg.
“It’s a way to get a commodity that’s not for everyone, but that’s their product.”
For now, the group is focused on lobbying the U’s Department of Commerce and the USDA for greater guidance on how to diversify the coconuts supply chain.
In 2018, the U served as a lead participant in the World Economic Forum’s “Growth and Health 2030” symposium, which was hosted by the U and the World Health Organization.
“I think a lot of these things need to be looked at in terms of, where are we at, how do we grow and how do people feed themselves?” said Bois.
“What are the trends in the supply chains?”