‘Watch out for Central America’: Quality cocoa set to surge

Up and coming origins: Quality improvements for Central American cocoa creates opportunities for premium chocolate makers

The next several years will herald a surge in quality cocoa volumes from Central America creating opportunities for premium origin chocolates, says Lutheran World Relief.

The nonprofit organization recently obtained a $500,000 grant from the Pathways to Prosperity Innovation Challenge to help Central American cocoa farmers. Several other initiatives from national governments are also underway to boost the region’s cocoa quality and quantity.

Up and coming origins

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Jennifer Wiegel, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) regional representative for Central America and Haiti, said that the combined actions would lead to premium chocolate prospects for manufacturers.

 “For the chocolate industry, the long term message from here would be: Watch out for Central America. There will be higher volumes of quality cocoa coming out of the region.”

“There’s a new origin up and coming – see if you want to get into it.”

Fermentation techniques

LWR intends to use its grant money to digitalize its Cocoa Toolkit so that it could be used by extension workers on smart phones to train around 4,000 farmers on best practices.

LWR is already working in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, but the grant allows it to also help farmers in Costa Rica and Guatemala.

“The cocoa sector in the region is very underdeveloped,” said Wiegel. “The real challenge is quality and having enough volumes.”

According to Wiegel, demand for Central American cocoa is currently greater than supply. She said the main problem was that cocoa had conventionally been sold as washed unfermented cocoa for use in domestically produced cocoa-based drinks.

LWR plans to teach farmers to ferment their cocoa beans for use in chocolate and will help fetch a premium for their fine flavor produce.

Which firms source from Central America?

German firm Ritter Sport currently sources a small percentage of its cocoa from smallholder farmers in Nicaragua. The company recently announced that it would eventually source 30% of its supply from the country after buying 2,500 hectares of land for its own Nicaraguan cocoa plantation.

Central America Cocoa Production Volumes


2012/13 (estimate)

2013/14 (forecast)


4,000 MT

4,000 MT


700 MT

1,000 MT

El Salvador

1-2 MT


Costa Rica 

500 MT

500 MT


1,000 MT

1,000 MT

Source: ICCO

Swiss firm Chocolats Halba began a project to build up the Honduran cocoa industry in 2008, which at the time was practically non existent after the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Processing capacity has also risen in the region after Chocolate del Caribe acquired an abandoned cocoa processing plant in Honduras in late 2013, which is now operational.

National initiatives to boost supply

There are also a number of initiatives backed by national governments aiming to increase the supply across Central America.

In April, the US, Mexican and El Salvadorian governments partnered to generate 8,000 metric tons (MT) of cocoa in El Salvador under a $50 million, five-year initiative.

El Salvador currently has so little cocoa production that it is not listed by the International Cocoa Organization. However, it estimates that the country exports between one and two MT.

Earlier this year Switzerland launched a $12m five-year to boost cocoa production in Nicaragua and Honduras. The cocoa crop for both of those countries combined represents 0.1% of the world cocoa supply, which is heavily concentrated in West Africa.

Wiegel added that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will also fund a $12m project in Nicaragua to support 3,350 cocoa farmers on the eastern side of the country between 2014 and 2019. 

She noted that any shift in Central American yields would take time. The priority for now was to standardize quality farming practices in the region that will lead to a higher volumes in the long-term, she said.

Related News

'An aggressive plant to renovate 80,000 hectares of poorly productive cocoa fields is the key to improve the economic prospects of Colombian cocoa producers and the sector as a whole': Fedecacao national technical supervisor Yardley Cano

Premium chocolatiers take note: Colombia to renew high-quality cocoa plantations

Nicaragua could grow into a fine flavor cocoa hub, but farmers need to understand the benefits of fermentation, says Atlanta Chocolate founder

Nicaragua: A future fine flavor cocoa origin, but work needed

Peruvian cocoa yields are on the rise and the country is poised to by a key cocoa exporter for the future

Peru to become top 10 cocoa exporter, says USDA

Premium chocolate makers such as Friis-Holm are turning to Nicaraguan cocoa

New World of cocoa: Artisan chocolatiers marvel at origin Nicaragua

Besides being soy-free, Tuanis chocolate bars are 75% dark chocolate, organic and vegan.

Start-up Tuanis to bring single-origin, soy-free chocolate to US

Straight from the farm: G&E Chocolate Adventure Company eyes export markets

Great adventure: Costa Rica roasted cocoa brand targets overseas listings

Does the long-term future of cocoa lie outside West Africa? Photo Credit: WCF

Could West Africa lose its cocoa crown?

A tale of two farmers: The human cost of unsustainable cocoa

James Cropper and Barry Callebaut partner for paper packaging made partially from cocoa husks

Chocolate wrapped in cocoa: Barry Callebaut teams with supplier for packaging made from cocoa waste

Related Products

See more related products

Comments (1)

Dwain Holmes - 08 Aug 2014 | 11:31

El Saivador

Puerto Barrilla held a conference on Cacao production at their Marina about 18 months ago!!

08-Aug-2014 at 23:31 GMT

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.