From local sales to international trade


Jeroen Kruft, former owner of a company focused on product development in developing countries, is regularly enlisted by Agriterra to provide advice to cooperatives in, for example, Peru, Congo and Tanzania. In September last year, he shared his experiences and insights in marketing with cocoa cooperative Ecakoog in Ivory Coast. "I examined their customer base, their finances and the quality of the cocoa. We visited some plantations, discussed certification, and looked at a marketing strategy."

Jeroen Kruft with Ousmane Traoré (president Ecakoog) 

In Ivory Coast, cocoa is typically sold locally and then purchased by multinational corporations for export. Ecakoog aims for independent export to Europe. Jeroen emphasises the importance of direct contact with importers. "This provides the cooperative with a negotiating position to sell more certified and specialty beans, resulting in additional premiums that go directly to the cooperative."

Trade fair visits

One way to acquire new customers is by attending trade fairs in Europe. Ecakoog had plans to visit Chocoa 2024 in Amsterdam, an active small fair with attendees from around the world. And a visit to Biofach in Nuremberg, the world's largest organic fair, although not exclusively focused on cocoa.

In 2020, cooperative members had previously attended the cocoa fair in Amsterdam, but the contacts made at that time turned out to be minimal. This time, they wanted to be better prepared, with the assistance of Jeroen. "I taught them to write emails to customers, put together a brochure, and adjust their website. They created samples of the cocoa beans with beautiful labels – all basic things to present themselves more professionally."

In February, the president of Ecakoog, Ousmane Traoré, came to the Netherlands to attend the cocoa fair. Jeroen explains, "Unfortunately, the visa for some other participants was not issued on time. That was disappointing. I then went out with Ousmane and also with Abou Camille, the president of Camaye, another cooperative supported by Agriterra."

Ousmane Traoré (president Ecakoog) and Abou Camille (president Camaye)

During and before the fair, Jeroen and the two presidents had the opportunity to speak with many importers. "In the days leading up to the fair, we were busy visiting the offices of buyers, such as Daarnhouwer, Tony’s, and Facta International. And that is actually even better than meeting them at the fair. There, you can see a lot of people in a short time, but it's somewhat more superficial than when you visit people in their offices." They also established contact with banks such as Triodos, Rabobank Foundation, and Rabobank Rural Fund. At Biofach, they spoke with Swiss, French, Belgian, Italian and Bulgarian cocoa buyers and chocolate makers.

Jeroen believes that they have made valuable contacts. "My role was to organise visits and provide advice on prioritising buyers. For example, we also approached smaller importers for their specialty beans. These are then centrally fermented and dried at the cooperative itself, resulting in better quality and a higher price. Overall, we have generated interest from various importers, and now the next step is to maintain these contacts. Because no contracts are signed yet at the fair itself."

Ousmane Traoré as participant in the  World Cacao Foundation panel

Quality Standards

The purchasing parties have a set of requirements that must be met. "It is assumed that the FCC standard for cocoa is met. There should be no harmful residues in the cocoa, and it must be pesticide-free. What is often asked nowadays is compliance with the new EU regulations, which prohibit cocoa from deforested areas. Ecakoog has invested in geolocation software to validate the origin of their beans."

Jeroen is optimistic about the future of the cooperative, which is well-organised and has various social programs such as projects involving women, drinking water, and agro-ecology. "They have a very modern office in the field and also in the capital for export activities. The staff is professional, although I do think there is a need for additional employees for marketing purposes." According to Jeroen, the current president is better in personal interactions than in email communication. Therefore, he warns of the risk that the valuable contacts the cooperative has now established may fade away if no specific efforts are made to maintain them.


Although Jeroen no longer runs his own company, he remains enthusiastic about working with farmer organisations in developing countries that can have a positive impact on both farmers and the environment. He emphasises the importance of organic initiatives, such as the training on organic compost at Ecakoog. His motivation is to sell as much organic cocoa as possible. "In addition, I really enjoy travelling and meeting various people. So, the social aspect, as well as the ecological aspect of this work, appeals to me a lot."

Even though his current assignment with the cooperative has been completed, he stays in touch via WhatsApp. And they have promised to inform him when they sign a contract with an importer.


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