Cocoa plants are unusually susceptible to disease. With global demand for chocolate rising – including growing markets in China and India – there’s been concern about whether production can keep pace, especially with new and emerging threats.

In a quiet corner of the British countryside, a research center focuses on threats to cocoa production. Funding is providing by various partners, including the USDA. The International Cocoa Quarantine Centre in Reading serves as a sort of clearinghouse for improved cocoa plants. Before a variety from one country can be planted in another, it makes a stop here.

Ari Shapiro (@arishapiro) reports for NPR The Salt:

Now imagine that a farm in Ghana produces a super-plant, with pods that contain twice as many beans as a normal cocoa tree. Every chocolate producer in the world would want a cutting. But, if those cuttings contained a fungus or pest currently found only in Ghana, the entire chocolate industry could come crashing down.

That’s where the International Quarantine Centre in rural England comes in.


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