The Netherlands processes more cocoa than any other country in the world, and cocoa dominates trading relationships between the Netherlands and partners in West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The EU is the world's largest importer of cocoa, accounting for 60% of world imports. Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon are the major suppliers of cocoa into the EU market worth EUR 4.6 billion (2021). Cocoa beans and products of primary processing (such as cocoa butter or paste) account for 71% of Côte d'Ivoire’s, 58% of Ghana’s and 29% of Cameroon’s total exports to the EU. These products are entering the European Union market tariff- and quota-free in the framework of Economic Partnership Agreements.

The consumption of chocolate in the Netherlands, Europe and the United States is increasing every year. In China, India and Brazil too, demand is rising. Over the next few years, it is forecast that over a million tonnes of cocoa more will be needed. Annual production is currently around four million tonnes. To meet future needs, cocoa cultivation will have to be either intensified, and/or productivity increased and its production made more sustainable. This poses critical challenges in dealing with increasingly impoverished soils, ensuring male and female farmers earn a living income from cocoa, avoiding child and slave labour on cocoa farms, maintaining biodiversity on-farm and in cocoa growing regions, avoiding deforestation caused by cocoa and demonstrating this to importing countries and consumers. There are trends towards new uses, products and processing of beans, cocoa butter, pods, husks, and juice. There is growing interest in more diversified, differentiated, quality, flavoursome and healthy cocoa and chocolate products, and for cocoa that is resilient to pests and diseases and climate change; and resists taking up cadmium. How the industry works and the politics of global and national markets has been at the centre of debates for decades: who benefits and gains; and how the trade and markets are governed to be profitable, transparent and equitable. Questions are increasingly being raised about how (big) data in the cocoa value chain is generate, used and shared, for example in traceability schemes, in sustainability certification, and informing and communicating with consumers.

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, theoretical and empirical research – often in collaboration with different actors in the cocoa sector and academic partners worldwide - into ways of producing cocoa, how cocoa and chocolate are used, processed, traded, marketed and consumed and measuring the outcomes of different approaches, Wageningen University & Research contributes to efforts to make cocoa more sustainable.



Publications 2019 - 2020

Publications 2018 and older