The UK’s chocolate supply could be in danger due to a bug infecting cacao trees across West Africa, reports suggest.

Around 50,000 hectares of cacao farmland in Ghana (the world’s second-largest chocolate producer) has been “wiped out” by swollen shoot virus spread by mealybugs who thrive in hot climates.

Unfortunately, recent heatwaves have intensified the problem.

The virus has been described as “one of the most ecologically devastating on earth” and has also been spreading in Ivory Coast, which together with Ghana supplies 50% of the world’s chocolate produce.

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Benito Chen-Charpentier, professor of mathematics at The University of Texas at Arlington said: "This virus is a real threat to the global supply of chocolate."

What is swollen shoot virus that could affect UK chocolate supply?

Swollen shoot virus is caused by mealybugs which eat the leaves, buds and flowers of cacao trees, according to The Metro.

Around 20% of the cacao crop in Ivory Coast has been affected by the disease, while Ghana has lost more than 254 million cacao trees, The Metro has reported.

However, it isn’t all worrying news as scientists at universities in the US and Ghana claim to have found a new way to stop the virus, meaning our cherished chocolate supply could be saved after all.

Scientists at the University of Kansas, Prairie View A&M, the University of South Florida and the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana have developed a “new strategy for combating the virus”.

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Experts are hoping that by planting trees at a certain distance from one another, farmers can stop mealybugs from jumping from one tree to another and spreading the virus, said The Metro.

To do this, researchers used mathematical data to find out the ideal distance to plant trees to help minimise the virus spread while still making the most of the land.

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Chen-Charpentier explained: “What we needed to do was create a model for cacao growers so they could know how far away they could safely plant vaccinated trees from unvaccinated trees in order to prevent the spread of the virus while keeping costs manageable for these small farmers.

“While still experimental, these models are exciting because they would help farmers protect their crops while helping them achieve a better harvest.”

He added: “This is good for the farmers’ bottom line, as well as our global addiction to chocolate.”