The Netherlands processes more cocoa than any other country in the world, and cocoa dominates the trading relationship between the Netherlands and Ghana. The consumption of chocolate in Europe and the United States is increasing every year. In countries such as China, India and Brazil, too, demand is on the increase. Over the next few years, it is expected that an extra million tonnes of cocoa will be necessary. The present annual production is around four million tonnes. To ensure cocoa production remains sufficient for many more years, cultivation will have to be intensified and made more sustainable. This poses important challenges in dealing with increasingly impoverished soils and in maintaining biodiversity. From 2025 onwards, all chocolate in the Netherlands will have to be certified.

Wageningen University & Research and sustainable cocoa

The Netherlands, being a world player in the cocoa trade, performs an important role in realising sustainable chocolate. In 2011, several leading stakeholders such as Mars, HEMA and Plus supermarkets signed an ambitious agreement aiming to achieve fully sustainable cocoa consumption in the Netherlands by 2025.

By carrying out action-oriented research into ways of introducing sustainability and measuring the outcome, Wageningen University & Research is pooling various efforts to make the import of cocoa more sustainable. This will provide some insight into the present situation: how sustainable is the cocoa supply chain in actual fact? What advantages does sustainability offer farmers, such as those in Ghana? We are working with certification authorities, traders and NGOs to investigate the effect of certification procedures on the amount of trade, the prices and players, the environment and society.

Source of cocoa beans  

Wageningen Food Safety Research is doing research into where cocoa beans come from. This will reveal whether a product has been traded responsibly. A knowledge of cocoa bean sources also makes it easier to control food fraud.

Cocoa shells as alternative phosphate-rich fertiliser

During the processing of cocoa, the shells often end up as a waste product. To reduce costs or even to generate income it is important to deploy wastes as effectively as possible. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has many years of experience with practical research into worthwhile uses of residual waste. Separation and chemical processing can lead to the extraction of additional high-quality raw materials for manufacturing chemicals, diverse materials and, perhaps, fertilisers. For example, we are doing field trials using three cocoa shell types as alternatives for the phosphate-rich traditional fertilisers. Although it will probably not be possible to replace compost and animal manures completely, a smart combination of products should have the desired effect on soils.