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Cien. Inv. Agr. 40(2):279-289. 2013
Current state of and perspectives on cocoa production in Mexico
Oscar Díaz-José, Jorge Aguilar-Ávila, Roberto Rendón-Medel, and V.
Centro de Investigaciones Económicas Sociales y Tecnológicas de la Agricultura y la Agroindustria
Mundial (CIESTAAM). Universidad Autónoma Chapingo. Km. 38.5 Carretera México-Texcoco, Chapingo,
C.P. 56230, Estado de México, Mexico.
O. Díaz-José, J. Aguilar-Ávila, R. Rendón-Medel, and V.H. Santoyo-Cortés. 2013.
Current state of and perspectives on cocoa production in Mexico. Cien. Inv. Agr.40(2):
279-289. Cocoa is one of the principal agricultural and cultural resources of the humid Mexican
tropics. At present, the cocoa system is facing an unprecedented production crisis in relation
to several factors, including the presence of frosty pod rot (Moniliophthora roreri), plantation
neglect and low farm protability. The aim of this study was to formulate a medium-term
plan for cocoa production in Mexico by constructing a Technology Roadmap (TRM). Using
an econometric model, production statistics were analyzed for national and international data.
Producers participated in 185 surveys, and 82 interviews were performed with key actors in
the production chain. The results showed that from 2000-2011, Mexico’s cocoa production
decreased by 43.7%, contrary to the increase seen in most cocoa producing nations during
that time. The TRM indicates that a six-year period is needed to implement the plan, which
would involve integration of pest management, introduction of good agricultural practices and
management, participation in breeding, improvement of quality and promotion of national
cocoa. These actions require the participation of all production chain stakeholders to encourage
farmers to take part in the specialized production of Mexican ne aroma cocoa.
Key words: Cocoa, Mexican cocoa, frosty pod rot, technology roadmap, Theobroma cacao.
Received August 8, 2012. Accepted March 3, 2013.
Corresponding author: email@example.com
An effective and well-informed policy is necessary
to revive cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) production
in Mexico. Cocoa is one of the most important
agricultural and cultural resources of the humid
tropics. The crop is grown on 61,344.2 ha that
are distributed mainly in the states of Tabasco
(66.9%) and Chiapas (32.7%), and it represents
an important source of income for nearly 41,000
families (OEIDRUS, 2012). New areas were planted
during the cocoa golden age (from the mid 70s
to early 90s), and the total production and yield
per hectare increased (Carrasco-Linares and
Ramírez-Díaz, 1992; Gonzalez-Lauck, 2005).
Currently, production of cocoa faces an unprec-
edented crisis that is being caused by frosty pod
ciencia e investigación agraria280
rot or moniliasis (Moniliophthora roreri [(Cif a nd
Par.) Evans et al.]), poor plantation management
and low yield, among other things.
Frazen and Borgerhoff Mulder (2007) proposed
th at diver si cat ion and increa sed productivit y in
the short term are necessary to ensure income for
small cocoa producers. The International Cocoa
Organization (ICCO) also suggested the generation
of national trademarks and badges to guarantee
product traceability and social responsibility,
which have become relevant to the global cocoa
sector (ICCO, 2010).
In Mexico, many investigators have studied cocoa
production from different perspectives, including
production cost (Cruz-Jimenez, 2008), commer-
cialization (Martínez-Gallardo, 2008), plantation
oral diversity and microfauna (Ramírez-Meneses,
2009), cocoa producer association participation
for cocoa gathering and commercialization
(Córdova-Avalos et al., 2008), and evaluation of
the sustainability of conventional and organic
systems (Priego-Castillo et al., 2009). In these
studies, the primary recommendations were
focused on the search for market opportunities,
increased competitiveness and the implementation
of rescue strategies for cocoa crops.
An appropriate rescue strategy requires the
distribution of relevant information to declining
farms; not only regarding market opportunities,
but also regarding actions for the medium to
long term that permit the consolidation of cocoa
production as an economically protable activity
for the producer. In this regard, Cordova-Ávalos
et al. (2001) explain the need for a national stra-
tegic plan, the mission of which should be the
rescue of the cocoa polyculture system; a system
that has already shown economic and ecological
The formulation of a strategy requires specic
information about the current trends in cocoa
culture and the prevailing situation in the coun-
try, so it requires a medium term denition of
prospective activity. From this information, it
is possible to develop guidelines in the short to
medium term for cocoa production development.
Current information regarding cocoa production
dy namics is in sufcient in Mex ico; Fu r ther m ore,
formulation of a development strategy based on a
detailed characterization of producers and their
plots is in an uncertain early stage. Therefore, the
r st objective of the present st udy was to chara c-
terize the current cocoa production industry for
the major producing states in Mexico (Chiapas
and Tabasco) by evaluating production dynam-
ics and collecting cocoa producer surveys. The
second objective was to dene a preferred cocoa
production development perspective based on the
construction of a Technology Roadmap.
Materials and methods
This study rst addressed the details of produc-
tion trends for the principal producing countries.
Questionnaires were completed by cocoa producers
and key production chain members were consulted.
This information was systematized and analyzed
with the aid of experts to formulate a viable and
well informed proposal for reactivating cocoa
Production dynamic. An econometric model was
applied that registers production growth and deseg-
regates percentages of change (Contreras-Castillo,
1999; Leos-Rodríguez, 1980; Zarazúa-Escobar et
al., 2011). The fundamental principle was to start
with the production change over the 2000-2011
period and to determine whether this change was
explained by an increase in cultivated surface,
an increase in yields or an interaction between
both effects. Based on this model, a productive
trend analysis for Mexico was made relative to
the principal producing nations for the last twelve
years. The following formula was used:
VOLUME 40 Nº2 MAY – AUGUST 2013
( ) ( ) ( )( )
00000000 YYAAYYAAAYYAP ttttT −−+−+−+=
= Production change for the period of analysis
A0Y0 = Production during the base period
Y0 (At – A0) = Quantication of the contribution
A0 (Yt – Y0) = Quantication of the contribution
) = Quantication of the combined
effect of surface and yield.
A = Average cultivated surface at the start of the
analysis period (2000) in ha.
At = Average harvested surface at the end of the
analysis period (2011) in ha.
Y0 = Average yield at the start of the period ana-
lyzed (2000) in t ha-1.
Yt = Average yield at the end of the period analyzed
(2011) in t ha-1.
Principal characteristics. Information was ob-
tained from a simple random sampling with 90%
reliability (FAO, 1998) by including a total of 465
plots that received technical support in 2009 from
the Program on Humid Tropics (Programa Trópico
Húmedo) of the Mexican Department of Agriculture
(Secretaría de Agricultura Ganadería Desarrollo
Rural Pesca y Alimentación, SAGARPA). The
size of the sample was 185 producers, with 136 in
Tabasco from 6 municipalities and 48 in Chiapas
from 5 municipalities.
The questionnaire was divided into four sections;
the rst section covered the characteristics of
the cocoa plantations and included open ques-
tions about the producers and plantations such
as the producer’s age, amount of schooling, and
years of experience in cocoa production as well
as the amount of cultivated surface, the number
of cocoa varieties on the plantations, the age of
the cocoa plantations, the plant density and the
average dry cocoa yield.
The second part of the questionnaire covered the
cost of production and yields; it contained with
questions about the economic resources invested
in activities, namely annual weed control, fertiliza-
tion, the application of fungicides and insecticides,
mixture for sealing the pruning incision, grafting,
shadow regulation, irrigation, pruning, drain re-
habilitation, removal of diseased fruits and plant
renewal and harvest. The third part covered good
agricultural practices (GAP) and was integrated
with a list of ten agricultural practices that were
classied in terms of their frequency and impor-
tance to management of frosty pod rot (Table 1).
Weighted variables were substituted for each of
the observations on a calculation sheet. Based on
Table 1. Frequency of good manufacturing practice (GMP) performance for
cocoa and GMP weighting in 2011.
Frequency of GMP
performance (%) Weighting1
Weed control 96.2 1
Pruning 16.8 5
Maintenance pruning 61.1 3
Pruning rehabilitation 7.0 5
Regulation shade 20.5 5
Maintenance of drains 12.4 5
Fertilization 18.4 5
Removal of diseased fruits 57.3 3
Application of pesticides to control pests 24.3 4
Application of pesticides for disease control 15.1 5
1The weighting was dened based on the frequency obtained for each activity; the
higher the frequency, the lower the activity value due to the importance of these
actions for handling frosty pod rot.
ciencia e investigación agraria282
the construction of indicators for evaluating rural
development programs as proposed by Santoyo et
al. (2002), the Good Agricultural Practices Index
(GAPI) was constructed for use on a national level
and for the three main producing regions using
the following formula:
GAPI = Good Agricultural Practices Index
CP = Cultivation practices considered in the survey
n = size of the sample
The fourth section covered other producer activi-
ties for cocoa plantations.
The questionnaires were validated using three
pilot tests in each of the study regions before the
formal application was sent to producers. Data
were analyzed with SPSS 15.0 software.
The Technology Roadmap (TRM) is a tool with
technological, strategic and planning support. It
is based on a graphic representation of the prin-
cipal strategic factors and milestone denitions
that make it possible to carry out the necessary
actions with the resources required for strategy
implementation (Phaal et al., 2004). It is used by
businesses, industries, and geographic regions
or count ries to support specic strategies (Mc-
Dowall, 2012). For the present work, the TRM
process was carried out in three phases as follows:
a regional analysis of capacities and opportuni-
ties for cocoa production, roadmap design and
implementation and nally, an evaluation of the
initiatives proposed by experts and technicians
responsible for giving technical advice to cocoa
In the rst phase, key production chain members
were consulted during personal interviews;
these key members were selected on the basis
of the Mapping of Major Players methodology
(Rendón-Medel et al., 2009). The participants were
representatives of all echelons of the production
chain (Table 2). Open interviews were performed
to collect information about the regional produc-
tion capacity, the areas and the opportunities for
improvement of cocoa production. This phase
was completed during the rst semester of 2011.
Innovation inventories were produced by research
institutions, and recent information was examined
regarding the support provided to the production
chain by government institutions. The second
phase consisted of the construction of a trusted
group of 10 to 18 participants from industry,
academia, government and trade organizations
to design an appropriate road map. Finally, the
principal TRM proposals were subjected to
validation during two participatory workshops
with producers, cocoa experts, technicians and
Table 2. Key actors and number of surveys performed in 2010 and 2011 in
the main cocoa-producing regions.
Description Survey numbers
Labor organization representatives 18
Agribusiness representatives 5
International organizations 3
National investigators 3
Regional technicians 25
Public ofcials engaged in the promotion of cocoa culture 17
Societies of Rural Production (S.P.R.) 5
Craft workshops making chocolate 6
VOLUME 40 Nº2 MAY – AUGUST 2013
Cocoa production reduction in Mexico
The cocoa production change in Mexico dur-
ing the 2000 to 2011 period was negative, with
an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of -1.3.
A large reduction in cultivated surface area
explains the resulting data. The opposing trend
was identied for the main productive countries,
in which production grew steadily. The Ivory
Coast is the biggest cocoa producer and showed
an extensive degree of growth, whereas the rest
of the countries presented intensive growth. In
the Latin American context, the main producing
nations, with the exception of Mexico, showed
marked production increments that are primarily
attributable to yield increases (Table 3).
Table 3. Intensive and extensive increase of world cocoa production in ten selected countries, 2000-2011.
Region Country Increase1 (Pt)
America Mexico -43.7 -38.0 -7.7 2.0
Brazil 10.2 -1.0 11.4 -0.1
Ecuador 21.5 9.4 11.1 1.0
Colombia 10.7 3.1 7.4 0.3
Africa Ivory Coast 7.4 13.0 -4.9 -0.7
Ghana 43.3 13.9 23.6 5.8
Nigeria 30.0 8.7 18.9 2.3
Cameroon 30.5 17.5 10.3 2.6
Asia and Oceania Indonesia 38.4 14.2 19.7 4.5
Malaysia -77.6 -99.3 49.2 -27.5
1Data were obtained from the following databases: FAOSTAT (2011), ICCO (2010) and SIAP (2011).
Table 4. Main features of cocoa plantations in Mexico.
Features of the plantation Mean Average
Surface (ha) 1.8 2.8
Age of plantations (years) 33.4 140.9
Density (trees per ha-1) 615.6 80992.0
Prot (MX$ per ha-1) 2214.3 40873743.0
Costs (MX$ per ha-1) 3724.3 11443394.0
Yield (kg per ha-1) 372.0 124048.2
1Good Manufacturing Practices Index.
Tabasco is the principal cocoa grain producer state
in Mexico (67.2%), and it showed a higher produc-
tive reduction (AAGR was -46.2) than the nation
as a whole, and Chiapas (31.9% of the national
production) registered a lower value than Tabasco
(the AAGR was -33.8). The Tabasco data showed
surface reduction (-46.6) as the only cause, but
in Chiapas, a higher value was shown for yield
reduction (-20.9) with respect to surface reduction
(-15.3). The resulting AAGRs were -2.7 and -2.9,
respectively. Oaxaca and Guerrero continued to
reduce the cultivated surface at an annual rate
of 2.5 and 2.8%.
Principal activity characteristics
Production is performed on small farms with
trees that surpass the optimum productive age,
and the resulting yields are low (Table 4). The
predominant cocoa genetic material is trinitario
(74.6%), followed by foreign (19.2%) and nally
criollo (7.0%). A polycrop production system is
used in which both wood and fruit trees coexist.
The Good Agriculture Practices Index (GAPI) is
low, and the highest value at a regional level was
registered in northern Chiapas (0.26), followed by
the Soconusco (0.20) and nally Chontalpa (0.19).
In addition to cocoa, crops such as banana (95.1%),
sugar cane (93.5%), corn (89.2%) and grasses
destined for extensive type livestock production
(87.9%) grow in the production units (the values
in parentheses indicate the percentage of cocoa
ciencia e investigación agraria284
producers with the indicated crop). The prots
obtained from cocoa sales are low and produc-
tion costs are considered high with respect to the
resulting economic benet. The average age of
the producers is 57.9 years who have an average
of 4.8 years of schooling and a mean of 31.6 years
of experience in cocoa cultivation.
Measures to reactivate production in Mexico
Six productive cycles was determined to be an
adequate period for developing actions to pro-
mote improved cocoa cultivation. Two market
milestones were used to present the proposals
generated by the work groups and in the applied
interviews (Figure 1). Four products or services
were identied, namely plantation rehabilitation,
cocoa quality, cocoa renewal and Mexican ne
avor cocoa; however, plantation rehabilitation
was the highest priority and was scheduled to be
developed immediately. For this purpose, execution
of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs
was proposed to counteract the yield reduction
from moniliasis in the short term. On the other
hand, good agricultural management practices
were considered to increase cocoa quality and
supply better grains to the national industry.
Agro-industry representatives noted that the selec-
tion of grains, the elimination of foreign material
and the quality of the ferment are critical points
that need to be addressed during the harvest phase.
The renewal of plantations should be focused on
criollo materials, preferably for white or pink
almonds, which requires the implementation of
participatory plant breeding with the goal of ac-
celerating this task. For this study, participatory
plant breeding is understood as a strategy for
plant breeding that is carried out in close col-
laboration with local actors, mainly producers and
investigators, to accelerate the selection process
and the development of promising genetic mate-
rial. At present, the participatory plant breeding
developed in Mexico included the selection and
conservation of criollo white almond materials,
the avor and aroma of which are appreciated in
international markets (Aguirre-Medina, 2009).
(pro ductions cycles)
FirstSecondThird ForthFif th Sixth
Reduce incidenceof frosty
Conversionof thepla ntations
Part icip atory
Figure 1. Technology Roadmap for cocoa culture in Mexico.
VOLUME 40 Nº2 MAY – AUGUST 2013
Finally, the generation of a quality and promo-
tional system for national cocoa was proposed
to take advantage of the market paradigm held
by Mexico as the center of domestication of the
species, which will guarantee the quality of the
This work has documented the reduction in cocoa
production, dened the characteristics of this re-
duction and devised strategic actions to promote
resurgence of cocoa production in the medium
term. Recent studies regarding cocoa production
in Mexico have noted a decrease in production and
the factors that explain this situation, that is, the
presence of frosty pod rot since 2005 (Phillips-
Mora et al., 2006), aging producers, old plantations
(Avendaño-Arrazate et al., 2011; Priego-Castillo et
al., 2009), farm abandonment, low quality cocoa
grains and lack of knowledge needed to compete
in international markets (Gonzalez-Lauck, 2005;
Ogata, 2007). However, those works focused on
identication of problems and specic activities
needed to develop strategies in the medium term
and were performed in a shallow fashion. In the
present research, the production dynamics in
Mexico are compared to those of other countries;
the level of land abandonment and main activity
characteristics were documented and the actions
necessary for revitalizing cocoa production in
the medium term were put forth in a clear and
The results suggest that the reduction of cocoa
production in Mexico does not correlate with
a global trend or a Latin-American trend.
With the exception of Malaysia, African and
Asian countries rapidly developed the cocoa
production, which was based mainly on yield
increments. The yield increment is directly re-
lated to the global trend in international cocoa
grain prices since 2000, which have led to the
intensication of cocoa culture (ICCO, 2010;
Phillips-Mora and Wilkinson, 2007). Therefore,
countries with low harvest volumes and delayed
development have a comparative advantage if
they fulll differentiated markets instead of
engaging in direct competition with the main
cocoa producing countries. At the national level,
these results suggest that 43.7% of the national
harvest was lost from 2000 to 2011 because of
damage caused by fungus, which concurs with
Phillips-Mora and Wilkinson (2007). This fungus
problem led to the logging of 19,326.45 ha of
cocoa plants from 2004-2005, which explains
how such a large reduction in the cultivated
surface occurred during such a short period
of time (OEIDRUS, 2012).
However, the main producer states (Tabasco and
Chiapas) exhibited differences in factors that
explain the production behavior. The reduction in
cocoa grain quantities in Tabasco is explained by
cocoa pla ntat ion log ging to grow more prot able
crops or engage in other agricultural activities;
in Chiapas, the yield reduction is related to a
reduction in harvest volume.
With regards to activity characterization, the low
GAPI value clearly reects the abandonment of
plantations by the management; this behavior
leads to low yields and low prots. At the cur-
rent time, cocoa production focuses on small
properties belonging to older producers. These
older producers need to hire additional personnel
for agricultural practices such as pruning and
weed control, and these practices must be done
periodically and require more physical effort;
these practices ultimately increase the cost of
production. Coupling this situation with scarce
economic benets has led to the abandonment
of plantations. Another critical point is the low
educational level of cocoa producers; according
to Engler and Toledo (2010), this low educational
level negatively impacts tool adoption rates relat-
ing to management and planning records.
González-Lauck (2005) reports that the aban-
donment and de-capitalization of cocoa planta-
tions began in the 1990s, with the drop in grain
ciencia e investigación agraria286
prices and the increase in cocoa imports by the
national industry. Without a secure market, the
plantations were neglected and the producers
On the other hand, there is a great wealth of
knowledge among cocoa producers about polyc-
ulture cocoa production because most producers
have many years of experience. This knowledge
can be used to formulate production strategies
as a result of modern production techniques and
traditional producer knowledge. In this respect,
Gastó et al. (2009) mentioned that updating the
knowledge and skills of the producers through
technical assistance is important for improving
The development of a Technology Roadmap (TRM)
facilitates the formulation of a Development Plan
for Cocoa Production in Mexico (Figure 2). The
plan focuses on the production of a criollo vari-
ety of white almond Mexican ne avor cocoa
(known as Caramelo 1) to promote the resurgence
of cocoa activity. This Caramelo 1 variety was
selected because it has been recognized as one of
the best cocoas in the world by the International
Cocoa Awards (Méndez, 2010).
Proposals that were established to reactivate
production include attending a local market in the
short term and growth of the country’s participa-
tion in international ne avor cocoa markets.
These actions were documented by Beganovic et
Figure 2. Development plan for cocoa production in Mexico.
VOLUME 40 Nº2 MAY – AUGUST 2013
al. (2010) in view of the expansion of a national
chocolate industry and a higher demand for quality
cocoa grains. This nding is reinforced by Anga
(2012), who ensures that the international market
will demand single origin cocoa during the next
few years from the supply chain.
In summary, cocoa production in Mexico has
decreased by 43.7% because of a reduction in the
cultivated surface. The country is experiencing an
opposing trend to that of the positive growth seen
in the main cocoa producing countries. There is a
high level of plantation abandonment; however, it is
possible to revitalize production through actions that
address the grain quality required by the national
agro-industry and a growing international demand
for single-origin, ne-avor cocoa. The develop-
ment of a TRM allows us to formulate a plan in the
medium term to improve this agricultural activity.
The ndings of this study contribute to the genera-
tion of recent information about cocoa production in
Mexico and the perspectives necessa ry to develop new
activities. This information can be used to design new
public policies related to promotion. The producers
will nd useful information for making decisions
about their plantations. Finally, investigators may nd
valuable elements to more effectively articulate the
demands of research, development and innovation.
The main contribution of this work is the devel-
opment of a Technology Roadmap that may be
applied to other crops or sectors. However, the
development of an adequate TRM implies the
joint work of various actors in the production
chain, mainly producers, research centers and
The main achievement of this study is its deni-
tion of how cocoa production must continue in
the medium term. Its main limitation lies in the
fact that more specic indicators regarding the
realization of good agricultural practices were
not used to document the abandonment of planta-
tions at a microregion or municipality level. In
the future, a deeper analysis of this situation is
required; an analysis of bidimensional models
may be necessary to nd the main differences
between the two main states of cocoa produc-
tion. Finally, it should be noted that a system
of integral planning, such as the one developed
in this work, is dynamic and must be modied
according to environmental and personnel
changes; therefore, a periodic and shared review
The authors would like to express their gratitude
for the nancing provided by the Dirección General
de Investigación y Posgrado of the Universidad
Autónoma Chapingo, to the ofce of “Red Agro-
innova Chiapas” for the facilities used for the de-
velopment of the present work and to Victor Hugo
Porras-Umaña for his contributions to this study.
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encuestas a productores y se realizaron 82 entrevistas a actores clave de la cadena productiva.
Los resultados evidencian que durante el periodo 2000-2011, México presenta una tendencia
contraria en el crecimiento de la actividad con respecto a la mayoría de las naciones productoras
de cacao y su producción disminuyó 43.7%. El MRT indica que el periodo para la ejecución
del plan es de seis años e involucra acciones de manejo integrado de plagas, incorporación de
buenas prácticas agrícolas y de manejo, mejoramiento genético participativo, generación de
sistemas de calidad y promoción del cacao nacional. Esto requiere de la participación de todos
los actores involucrados en la cadena productiva, con el propósito de llevar a las ncas hacia la
producción especializada de cacao mexicano no de aroma.
Palabra clave: cacao, cacao mexicano, moniliasis, mapa de ruta tecnológica, Teobroma cacao.
VOLUME 40 Nº2 MAY – AUGUST 2013
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