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Taiwan's chocolate is making a sweet impression on global consumers

Despite small crops and uneven farming, Pingtung's cocoa industry is booming

Warren Hsu, CEO of Fu Wan Chocolate, inspects cacao fruit in Pingtung, in southern Taiwan. The "tree to bar" process for the company, which sources beans from the area, takes place within a range of just 30 km. (Courtesy of Fu Wan Chocolate)

PINGTUNG, Taiwan -- For three decades, Chiu Ming-sung raised his family with income mainly from his four-hectare areca -- or betel -- nut farms in Taiwan's southernmost city of Pingtung.

In its heyday from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, the areca nuts alone brought him 800,000 New Taiwan dollars ($26,700) to NT$1,500,000 per hectare of land. Over the years, prices of the nuts plunged two-thirds from their peak in the mid-1990s to today. Betel nuts are blamed for causing some of Taiwan's leading cancer types, while areca plantations contribute to soil erosion, increasing the risk of landslides and water pollution.

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