Call for Concept Notes 2021

The role of natural
pollinators in cocoa yield

The relative roles of light, water, and nutrients on cocoa productivity are recognized as critical. Less understood is the role of pollination on cocoa productivity. The fertilization of cocoa flowers is mostly carried out by insects (Ceratopogonidae), but pollination receives no farmer management inputs or interventions, and simply happens as a “natural” process in the background. Manual pollination has been shown to stimulate cocoa yield in the short term. Thus, manual pollination may be an interim solution. But, we also need to understand what practical measures can be taken to improve natural pollinator populations on farm in the longer term. Therefore, this call addresses major gaps in knowledge on the role of natural pollinators in limiting yield of cocoa.

Submission deadline October 31st 2021.

Find the detailed description of the call here.
To prepare your application please use this template.

Core Research Areas

Cocoa Bean Quality and Food Safety

The research work is committed to the development of innovative tools allowing full conformity with regulations also in the future. In the focus are heavy metals, crop protection product and mineral oil residues, mycotoxins and acrylamide. Joint Research fund looks for closing of research gaps and the integration of scientific knowledge from the academy with the experience of the chocolate industry and other world industry references that provide us with clear, applicable, documentable information and that lead to mitigation plans with technical and financial viability. We also support work by the International Standards for the Assessment of Cocoa Quality and Flavour and science based flavour assessments as the Cocoa of Excellence program. Flavour and its diversity in the cocoa sector is an essential heritage and is further supported by the international germplasm collections.

Integrated Pest and Disease Management

Pests and diseases greatly affect cocoa farm productivity and resilience. To minimize their impact, the Joint Research Fund follows a three-component approach. Prevention of pest and disease spreading. Monitoring of pest and disease levels and detection of emerging diseases. Reduction of the dependency on chemical crop protection and development of integrated biological approaches for priority pests and diseases.

Resilient Cropping Systems

Erratic weather and climate change, combined with degradation of natural resources including soils, pose a major threat to cocoa production and the livelihoods of cocoa farming communities. Furthermore, the frequency of exposure of cocoa to extreme climatic events is expected to increase as climate change progresses with prolonged periods of drought and flooding. Building resilience will require a range of interventions including the adoption of climate smart agronomic practices, efficient use of inputs, crop diversification including agroforestry, conservation and restoration of natural resources and the early and rapid identification and control of pests and diseases.
The Resilient Cocoa Cropping Systems theme will focus on three main areas: Resilient agronomy; enhanced natural resources and ecosystem services and weather-informed agro-advisories.

Ongoing Projects

Spatially explicit recommendations for optimal levels of shade tree cover for sustainable cocoa production


The recent practice of growing cocoa in full-sun monocultures, while increasing yields in the short term, has led to decreases in soil fertility, increases in pest and disease, premature aging of cocoa trees, and has made cocoa more vulnerable to climate extremes. In contrast, in wetter areas, excessive amount of shade may lead to decreasing productivity and higher disease pressure.

Project Aim

The project aims at generating spatially-explicit recommendations for optimal levels of shade-tree cover for different climatic/edaphic cocoa growing areas in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and at providing a freely available tool, based on satellite image evaluation through machine learning, for local and large scale assessment of shade-tree cover in Ghanaian and Ivorian cocoa farms.

Ongoing Projects

Understanding the genetic basis of resistance to Vascular Streak Dieback


The basidiomycete Oncabasidium theobromae was identified as the cause of a devastating disease of cacao named Vascular-streak Dieback (VSD) in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s. VSD now causes substantial losses in seedlings and kills branches in mature cacao trees throughout south east Asia and parts of Melanesia.

Project Aim

The project aims at understanding the genetic basis of resistance among cacao trees that are naturally resistant to VSD. Markers conferring resistance to VSD will be identified and tested for their potential use in Marker-assisted selection.

Ongoing Projects

Mitigation of Cadmium Bioaccumulation


Cadmium is a heavy metal that is often prevalent in volcanic soils, as a degradation product of rocks. With cocoa being a tree crop, cadmium tends to accumulate throughout the long-life cycle of the plants, part of which partitions into the cocoa seeds.

Project Aim

The project aims at providing a toolbox for farmers to mitigate cadmium bioaccumulation. The toolbox comprises short- and long-term implementations such as soil amendments, organic matter, nutrient management and the use of rootstock with low cadmium uptake.

Completed Projects

Cocoa Beans: Chocolate &
Cocoa Industry Quality Requirements


The European Cocoa Industry needs a sustainable and consistent supply of cocoa beans with the quality attributes to meet the diverse requirements. Various types of cocoa beans are needed to meet the demands of a complex market for chocolate and cocoa-derived products in which food safety, efficiency and cost effectiveness are key factors alongside consumer demands for taste and quality. The Cocoa Beans Manual aims at improving cocoa quality, including food safety aspects, by making relevant information more accessible.


Cocoa Beans: Chocolate & Cocoa Industry Quality Requirements

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These documents can be freely distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. They are not to be edited or sold, or their contents reproduced in any other work, without permission.

Completed Projects

Understanding the extent of molecular diversity of the complex of viral species responsible for Cacao swollen shoot disease in order to improve CSSV detection and identify genuine alternative host plants


Cacao swollen shoot virus (CSSV) is a member of the family Caulimoviridae, genus Badnavirus and is naturally transmitted to Theobroma cacao (L.) by several mealybug species. The virus is restricted to West Africa. The resultant disease has caused enormous economic damage in Ghana since the 1930’s but was restricted to small areas in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire until recently. Now, renewed outbreaks in the main producing areas in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo are causing serious yield losses and tree death.


The range of diversity of the viral species responsible for CSSV disease in West Africa was determined. Based on the results a molecular analytical tool for the detection of the most viral sequences associated with the CSSV disease present in cocoa leave samples has been developed. A method for effective sampling of potentially infected trees has been defined. Based on this knowledge, but nor as a part of the project, a laboratory for CSSV monitoring was build up in Ivory Coast. Finally, citrus, coffee and rubber were successfully evaluated as barrier crops.

Calls for Proposals

The Joint Research Fund (JRF) finances applied research aiming at the development of solutions for current and upcoming key challenges of the cocoa sector. An industry managerial team, consisting of three JRF members, accompanies each project. Project proposals can be submitted upon a call for proposals. Calls are published on a yearly basis on the website. Initiative proposals are also welcome, but need to be within one of the Core Research Areas. Key components of JRF Project Proposals are the economic relevance of the topic, application development and an effective results transfer plan to the user groups. Applicants are encouraged to use the template for Project Proposals. The deadline for submission is communicated together with the call. Initiative proposals need to be submitted lately six weeks ahead of the JRF meeting. Information about the date of the next meeting can be obtained contacting the secretariats.

Call for proposal

Template for Project Proposals

About Us

Fund Organization

A sustainable cocoa supply chain calls for high standards of quality and productivity whereby cocoa is safe for consumer consumption, complies with manufacturers’ quality requirements, and meets the growing global demand. CAOBISCO and ECA are committed to working towards more sustainable cocoa, which complies with such requirements for consumer, manufacturer and farmer benefit. In 2013, CAOBISCO and ECA joined forces by setting up the Joint Research Fund that operates under the umbrella of both associations and in collaboration with the Joint Working Groups Contaminants and Quality & Productivity. The Fund is currently administered by ECA. It is financed through the membership fees paid by the member companies.

Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries of Europe

With 12 National Associations and 7 Direct Member Companies, as well as affiliated members, CAOBISCO is the voice of more than 13,000 European chocolate, biscuit and confectionery manufacturers all over Europe, composed of 99% SMEs.


European Cocoa Association

ECA is a trade association that groups the major companies involved in the cocoa bean trade and processing, in warehousing and related logistical activities in Europe. Together, ECA Members represent two-thirds of Europe’s cocoa beans grinding, half of Europe’s industrial chocolate production and 40% of the world production of cocoa liquor, butter and powder.


Become a Member


The diverse membership of the Joint Cocoa Research Fund is evidence of its international nature. Currently, the Fund has 14 members.

Membership contracts are renewed every 3 years. The membership fee depends on the amount of cocoa bean equivalents that the company is using. If your company is interested in becoming a member of the Joint Research Fund, please get in contact with the ECA Secretariat: info@eurococoa.com.