A new facility has opened in Reading, to safeguard the future of chocolate.
It is a bigger and better clearing house for all the world’s new cocoa varieties, which must be quarantined before they can be grown.
Demand for chocolate is increasing faster than the global supply of cocoa, of which an estimated 30% is lost to pests and disease each year.
New varieties are key to solving this problem, and the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre is the gatekeeper.
Since 1985, when the University of Reading took over the job from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, all new cocoa seeds and plants have passed through a facility in Shinfield, a few miles from the university.
“One of the principal issues concerning cocoa improvement is the supply of reliably clean, healthy, interesting cocoa material,” said Prof Paul Hadley, the cocoa project leader at the University of Reading.
“You need some mechanism to make sure that if you are transferring the stuff, you’re not transferring pests and diseases.”
The centre’s £1m purpose-built new home has been operating for a month.
It consolidates the collection of 400 varieties into a single, improved greenhouse and should make the quarantine process faster, cheaper and greener.
“We use a lot of energy keeping the cocoa plants in tropical conditions, and we can do that much more efficiently in this new facility,” Prof Hadley told the BBC.