Abstract Cacao is one of the main cultivars in Ecuador, occupying 12% of the cultivated surface. Most of the cacao is destined for exports, most specifically to be used in chocolate elaboration. Ecuador is constitutionally committed with the sustainable production of food through its National Plan of Good Living. Energy usage and its consequences in terms of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) constitute two fundamental dimensions of agrarian sustainability, especially in the context of petroleum depletion and climate change. The objective of this work is to provide a comprehensive picture of the environmental impacts (energy and GHG) of the agrifood system associated to the cacao produced in Ecuador and exported to third countries for chocolate elaboration and consumption. To that end, a life cycle assessment methodology has been utilized. The functional unit used has been defined as the elaboration and distribution, until sales, of 1 kg of pure chocolate (100% cacao) obtained from cacao cultivated in Ecuador. In the farm production phase, a differentiation has been made between technified and traditional cacao management. The study results show how the unitary energy cost of the traditional and technified agrifood systems were estimated between 36.7 and 40.6 MJ kg−1, with GHG emissions of 2.49 and 2.82 CO2-eq kg−1, respectively. Cacao production, transformation and transportation accumulated, in average, 66.5, 16.1 and 15.0% of GHG emissions. Irrigation and fertilization constituted the two most important items in terms of energy, especially in the case of technified management. Energy efficiency (ER and ERnr) for the overall agrifood system was estimated in average terms to be 1:0.68 and 1:0.86, respectively.

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