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Transportation can cancel out the ecological advantages of producing organic cacao: The carbon footprint of the globalized agrifood system of ecuadorian chocolate


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Pérez-Neira, David; Copena, Damián; Armengot, Laura and Simón, Xavier (2020) Transportation can cancel out the ecological advantages of producing organic cacao: The carbon footprint of the globalized agrifood system of ecuadorian chocolate. Journal of Environmental Management, 276 (111306), pp. 1-10.

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Online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479720312305


Under the hypothesis that organically managed cacao agroforestry systems report a lower global warming potential (GWP) and reduce other environmental pressure indicators compared with conventionally managed systems and monocultures, this work discusses how global transportation can cut back the ecological advantage of the production phase. For this purpose, the life cycle assessment (LCA) of 1 kg of dark chocolate manufactured with Ecuadorian cacao has been performed (cradle-to-retailer approach), including the indirect impacts of transportation and estimating the equilibrium distances beyond which organic chocolate would have a higher impact than chocolate manufactured from cacao grown in monocultures and/or conventionally managed systems. To articulate the discussion, the carbon footprint (CF) of cacao/chocolate was analyzed together with 10 additional LCA-related impact categories. Three management systems—conventional monoculture (CM) and agroforestry (CA), and organic agroforestry (OA)—and three different supply chain scenarios with different weights in the transportation phase were studied. Expanding on the concept of “food miles”, the equivalent kilometers of the impact of emissions (km-eq) (or cumulated energy demand, eutrophication, etc.) were defined as the variable distance that a certain means of transportation can travel in relation to a fixed level of GHG emissions (or MJ, kg PO4-eq, etc.). The CF of the life cycle of cacao/chocolate was estimated at between 2.04 and 4.66 kg CO2-eq kg−1. The relative weight of transportation in relation to the total GHG emissions ranged between 8.9% and 51.1%, with cacao/chocolate traveling between 1380 and 9155 km-eq. The CF of chocolate made from cacao grown in OA systems was 22.7%–34.2% and 6.3%–10.7% lower than the CF of chocolate produced from cacao grown in CM and CA and manufactured and transported under the same conditions. The equilibrium distances between managements were estimated at 1213 and 5275 km-eq. Beyond those equivalent kilometers, organic chocolate would have a larger CF than chocolate manufactured from cacao grown, respectively, in CA and CM systems. Our results indicate that transportation would cancel out this and most other comparative ecological advantages of producing organic cacao analyzed in this work. Directly exporting chocolate from cacao-producing countries and relocating chocolate manufacture would help reduce GHG emissions and other environmental impacts of the supply chain.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:cocoa, agroforestry systems, systems comparision, Organic farming, LCA, Ecological advantages, Food miles, Equivalent kilometers, International trade
Subjects: Crop husbandry
Food systems > Processing, packaging and transportation
Food systems > Markets and trade
Research affiliation: Spain > University of León
Spain > University of Vigo
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > International Cooperation > Agroforestry Systems
Spain > Other organizations
Deposited By: Armengot, Dr Laura
ID Code:38361
Deposited On:08 Sep 2020 11:11
Last Modified:08 Sep 2020 11:11
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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