Multi-agency cocoa platform for Latin America and the Caribbean “Cocoa 2030-2050”

Joint proyects
USD 452.675
Counterpart Amount:
USD 2.248.846
Execution time
48 Months
Total Amount:
USD 2.701.521
Participating countries:
Ecuador Ecuador Colombia Colombia Costa Rica Costa Rica Belgium Belgium Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Germany Germany Italy Italy Panama Panama Peru Peru United States United States
Funding source:
FONTAGRO Amount 17% Other agencies 0% Counterpart Amount 83%

Executive Summary

The "Cacao 2030 - 2050" platform is a pioneer in the exchange of research experiences with a comprehensive focus on cocoa in Latin America and the Caribbean. The main objective is to coordinate research activities in one of the least studied but most important crops for the region, such as cocoa. The first issue addressed by the platform is the high concentrations of cadmium (Cd) in cocoa beans or chocolate in the region. The issue was addressed from various areas (components) in the project, such as: strengthening analytical capacity in laboratories, cocoa cultivars with low cadmium absorption capacity, geospatial identification of contaminated areas, agronomic mitigation strategies, socioeconomic impact of European regulation, and training for key stakeholders in the platform countries. All these activities were carried out simultaneously in the three implementing countries of the platform: Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Cadmium is a naturally occurring element in soils at concentrations <0.40 mg of Cd per kg of soil (worldwide average). In cocoa plants, this concentration can increase by 4 and 2 times in leaves and beans, respectively. A critical aspect in managing the Cd problem is having laboratories that ensure the quality of results. In this regard, the platform developed a standardized laboratory protocol that focused on analytical quality parameters, such as the use of certified reference materials. With the implementation of this protocol, laboratories have a key tool to ensure service to the industry and report reliable research results.

Another important outcome was the spatial determination of areas contaminated with Cd in the region's countries. For this purpose, samples were collected from 150, 600, and 570 cocoa farms in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador, respectively. There was high variability among countries and among regions within the same country, so it cannot be concluded that there are contaminated regions or zones, but rather that there is a higher or lower probability of finding farms with high levels of Cd. In areas with problems, demonstration farms were implemented to study the most appropriate agronomic management alternatives to reduce Cd in cocoa beans. So far, the best agronomic alternative for Cd management is increasing soil pH through the use of agricultural lime. Reductions of up to 50% can be achieved compared to non-application (control); however, this is achieved gradually and may take two or three years to observe this result. This activity will increase production costs, so incentives are recommended from local governments.

Ecuador is one of the cocoa-producing countries and may be more affected than other countries in the region by these non-tariff measures. It is estimated that the economic loss due to excessive Cd could exceed $270 million if areas with higher Cd content exported to regulated markets. These projected data should be cross-checked with information on the destination of exports, which is difficult to obtain due to the cocoa value chain structure in the country.
The Cacao 2030 - 2050 platform has been established as one of the most important research alternatives in the region, with special attention to heavy metals in cocoa beans and chocolate. The group has consolidated as a multidisciplinary actor that will continue to contribute scientifically to solving problems in the cocoa production chain.

The technological solution

  • Solution 1: Laboratory Methodology as a Proposal for Cadmium Measurement in Soil, Leaves, and Cocoa Beans.

The developed methodology places special emphasis on the incorporation of analytical and quality control (QA/QC) systems through: 1) use of analytical blanks, 2) calibration curve reporting, 3) determination of repeatability, 4) use of certified reference materials, and 5) measurement of Cd-contaminated solutions.

  • Solution 2: Cadmium Presence Maps.

Three maps (Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador) of cadmium hotspots were developed, which will aid decision-makers in policy application and future research. Additionally, this technological tool underlies a development methodology that will be useful for other countries as needed.

  • Solution 3: Cadmium Mitigation Strategies.

Seven cocoa varieties with low cadmium absorption capacity were identified and suggested for use in genetic improvement programs. Additionally, three amendments were identified that, when applied to the soil, help reduce cadmium concentrations in tissues.


Throughout the project, the following results were generated:

  • Differences were found among cocoa varieties regarding cadmium absorption, identifying 7 varieties with low metal accumulation suitable for improvement programs.
  • A positive effect of manganese and zinc applications at specific doses on cadmium absorption was determined, suggesting further evaluation of new doses.
  • A methodology for laboratories to measure cadmium in different matrices was developed, implementing a results quality control system using certified reference materials.
  • Three maps identifying cadmium-contaminated areas were developed.
  • A technical document was created outlining the impact of EU regulations on annual cocoa exports in the three countries, alongside socio-economic analysis and identification of business models possibly affected by the cadmium issue.
  • A document analyzing local regulations (Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador) and developed countries regarding cadmium content in fertilizers and related products was developed.
  • A total of 2119 individuals were trained, including 1271 technicians from various public and private institutions related to the cocoa industry in the region.


Throughout the project, a total of 2119 individuals were successfully trained through various means, of which 40% were producers and 60% were technical personnel (researchers and extension workers). Additionally, female participation stood at 32% (686), considering cocoa farming as part of family agriculture. A total of 21 training activities were conducted, both virtually and in person, facilitating knowledge exchange and collaborative learning among members from the three partner countries of the Cocoa Platform.

Sustainable Development Goals

No poverty Good health and well-being Responsible consumption and production Climate action Partnerships for the goals

Main donors

Participating Organizations

  • Escuela Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) - Ecuador
  • Corporación Colombiana de Investigación Agropecuaria (AGROSAVIA) - Colombia
  • Fundación para el Fomento y Promoción de la Investigación y Transferencia de Tecnología Agropecuaria (FITTACORI) - Costa Rica
  • Instituto Nacional de Innovación y Transferencia en Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA) - Costa Rica
  • Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIAP) - Ecuador
  • Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) - Costa Rica
  • CEFA - Italia
  • Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA) - Costa Rica
  • International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) - Colombia
  • GIZ - Alemania
  • Instituto Nacional de Innovación Agraria (INIA) - Perú
  • Instituto de Innovación Agropecuaria de Panamá (IDIAP) - Panamá
  • Instituto Dominicano de Investigaciones Agropecuarias y Forestales (IDIAF) - República Dominicana
  • RIKOLTO - Bélgica
  • Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) - Estados Unidos

Graphics and data

Financing by country (in USD)
FONTAGRO Amount Other agencies Counterpart Amount

Geolocated Map

Publications and resources


Project leader Ecuador

Eduardo Chávez Navarrete


Byron Moyano


Laura Ramirez


Daniel Bravo


Gersain Rengifo


Felipe Montealegre


Francisco Arguedas


Adriana Santos


Guillermo Zambrano


Karen Ramirez


Victor Sanchez


Manuel Carrillo


Ivan Garzon


Kevin Carrillo

With the support of
Fondo Coreano de Alianza para el Conocimiento en Tecnología e Innovación (KPK)