Sweet spot: Europe’s first cocoa harvest

Sweet success in Axarquia. Image: Shutterstock/ Narong Khueankaew

IN a breakthrough venture, researchers at IHSM (the Institute of Subtropical and Mediterranean Horticulture) La Mayora in Axarquia have accomplished the seemingly impossible—successful cocoa cultivation in controlled greenhouse conditions. Historically, attempts to grow cocoa in the region, dating back centuries, had always failed until a private initiative from La Despensa de Palacio and IHSM researchers bore fruit recently.

Cocoa in the Cold

Overcoming the challenge of the region’s winter temperatures, which are lower than cocoa’s tropical ideal, researchers used two greenhouses—one heated and one unheated. Manual pollination was crucial, given the absence of native pollinators in Spain. The result: a modest but significant 70-kilogram cocoa harvest, marking Europe’s first successful cocoa yield.

From Seeds to Sweets

While the yield is currently limited, researchers are optimistic about refining the cultivation process. Axarquia’s unique microclimate, with its moderately low minimum temperatures, proves beneficial for unheated greenhouses. Although large-scale commercial production faces challenges, the project has sparked interest from the chocolate industry, hinting at a potential niche market for European-grown cocoa. The successful venture opens doors to further innovations in cocoa cultivation outside traditional tropical regions.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!