At a Glance
Population: 6.4 million people
Rural Population: 52%
Median Age: 28 years
Cocoa Production: 6,000-7,000 metric tons
Fine Cocoa Production: 80%
History of Cocoa
Legend has it that Christopher Columbus was the first European to drink cocoa from beans when he arrived in Nicaragua in 1502 while looking for sea routes for the transport of spices to the East. Although it is believed that cocoa originated in South America, its cultivation was developed in Mexico and Central America by the Mayan and Aztec indigenous people, using it as a drink to give energy to warriors as well as use as a currency.
In addition to significant internal consumption, in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries cocoa cultivation was developed mainly on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua by European companies with the purpose of marketing the bean outside the country, however, the boom in cultivation for that purpose ended during World War II. It was not until 1995 that the crop was reborn on the Caribbean coast of the country, an area where 85% of the crop is currently planted. Nicaraguan cocoa is consumed locally and marketed both in Central America as well as other regions around the world.
Nicaragua has a great deal of genetic diversity in cocoa and has found clones and hybrids native to Nicaragua. Currently, the country produces between 6,000 and 7,000 metric tons of cocoa per year, becoming the largest cocoa producer in Central America. Exports of cocoa beans in 2019 generated nearly $6 million dollars.
2015: Gold Medal for the best dark chocolate in Europe (Chuno®)
2015 & 2016: Gold, Silver and Bronze in international competitions.
2017: Gold Medal for the best chocolate in Europe (Chuno®)
2019: European Semifinalist: Chocolate manufacturing companies from Europe and the United States that used cocoa from Nicaragua won 18 awards at the International Chocolate Awards, including the gold medal in the category “Best of The Best” won by the company Omnom from Iceland.
Cocoa Flavor Attributes
Nicaragua is part of a select list of countries producing fine cocoa. Currently, 80% of the cocoa produced in Nicaragua falls into this category and is duly identified by the region in which it is grown and its post-harvest management. For centuries, Nicaraguan cocoa has been recognized for its flavor and aroma that come from ancestral Creole genetics that is still found in the cocoa material currently cultivated in the country. In 2017, international organizations, donors and cocoa producers in Nicaragua built the first flavor map in 4 of the most recognized regions under cocoa production. The exquisite flavors are the product of different combinations of genetics, fermentation protocols and the environment in which they are grown.
90% of the cocoa in Nicaragua is in the hands of small producers with plantations of between 0.5 and 2 hectares. Almost 100% of the cocoa is grown under agroforestry systems, where cocoa together with endemic timber or fruit species combine to contribute to biodiversity and the economy of the producing family. Most of the cocoa plantations are located in the Caribbean area of Nicaragua, where there are annual rainfalls of more than 2,000 mm/year. It is estimated that there are currently 12,000 hectares producing 6,000 metric tons of cocoa per year and another 12,000 hectares of plantations under development.
Harvesting & Marketing
Current destinations of Nicaraguan cocoa: 100 active buyers, with Ritter Sport and Ingemann, both with offices in Nicaragua, being the primary buyers in the country.
Nicaragua’s cocoa is currently shipped to 35 countries, mainly to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States, Italy, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Japan, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Note: Nicaraguan cadmium content is almost non-existent and well below the European limit.
HCP Designees in Nicaragua
Contacts in Country
Catholic Relief Services-Nicaragua
Contact: Jorge Brenes
COMULBAN R.L. Coop
Contact: Gloria María Martínez
NUEVA WASLALA Coop
Contact: Wilton Picado
Contact: Jorge Brenes
Contact: José Ramón Muñoz