Organic cacao chain for development: The case of the Talamanca small-farmers association

M.A. Slingerland, E. Díaz Gonzalez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In de Talamanca region in Costa Rica cocoa production was abandoned in the late 1970s when yields dropped to zero due to Monilia. In the early 1990s, the Talamanca Small-Farmers association (APPTA) gained success in promoting its revival. By creating contacts with buyers of organic cacao in the United States, APPTA was able to certify a significant area of cacao and to start exporting to the USA. Organic cacao had positive effects on farmers¿ income and on the environment. Recently a number of problems occurred: the USA buyer has withdrawn, the price of conventional cacao increased and the amount of organic cacao has increased as well, making it very costly to pay a premium for organic cacao. Costa Rica and Panama both produce only small volumes of organic cacao. Some cocoa producers started production of organic banana. APPTA has to cope with market instability due to excess supply and with low local production due to biological threats. APPTA has to find a reliable buyer and either to increase the volume of cacao or to pool its production with the production realized by COCABO in Panama. This latter option will lead to a number of associated challenges such as harmonization of quality, organizing logistics, tracking and tracing, elaborating contracts between cooperatives etc. Developing new commercialization channels towards Europe reveals three options: APPTA sells beans directly to a Dutch buyer; APPTA sells beans to a Costa Rican processor who in turn exports semi-manufactured products to Dutch producers; or beans are processed by Costa Rican industry and APPTA commits to selling semimanufactured products to Dutch producers. Each of these three options has different repercussions on labelling, quality, environmental impact and profits. Additional options to improve livelihood of cacao farmers consist of diversification of the production at farm level and developing alternative sources of income, such as eco-tourism. The real challenge facing APPTA is to determine how to bring stakeholders with different interests and competencies together in an effective way to improve chain performance and to enhance farmers¿ livelihoods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgro-food chains and networks for development
EditorsR. Ruben, M.A. Slingerland, H. Nijhoff
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages233
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Publication series

NameWageningen UR Frontis Series


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