Cocoa Production

An Overview of Cocoa Production in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana

Figure 1. Illustration of the Process of Cocoa Cultivation and Marketing


Development from flower to pod over 5 months ⇒Harvest of ripe pods ⇒Field Storage of Pods for 0-10 days ⇒Pod opening and wet bean removal
⇒Fermentation 5-6 days (see Note 1) ⇒Drying 2-12 days (see Note 2) ⇒Presentation of Cocoa for Sale by Farmers ⇒Storage at Collection Centre (see Note 3)
⇒Storage in Export Store (see Note3) ⇒Marine Transport to Europe ⇒Storage of Cocoa in Consuming Countries ⇒Conversion into Cocoa Products (see Note 4)


  1. This is crucial to the subsequent development of good chocolate flavours; step undertaken either: in heaps on plantain leaves laid on the ground and covered over with more plantain leaves for 5-6 days (frequent in West Africa); or in heaps on, and covered with, plastic sheets for 5-6 days (on occasions in West Africa); or in boxes for 3-6 days (elsewhere).
  2. Either sun drying on raised bamboo mats (normal in Ghana); or sun drying on cement platforms at ground level (frequent in Côte d'Ivoire); or direct on the ground (sometimes in Côte d'Ivoire); or artificially by means of indirect or direct firing (elsewhere).
  3. There may be important differences (for investigation as regards influence of OTA formation) between the systems of  fermentation, drying and marketing in Ghana and in Côte d'Ivoire; in the former, the cocoa is placed directly in export bags and graded and sealed at these up-country centres; in the latter, cocoa is only placed in the export bags in the port area just  prior to export -- after several mixings of cocoas of various qualities have probably occurred earlier in the marketing chain.
  4. Considerable tonnages of cocoa are processed into cocoa products in cocoa producing countries and are exported as cocoa  products.


Information regarding the key aspects of cocoa production and marketing in West Africa (specifically Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana), from tree to factory,is presented via the links below:

Transit to port

Key features of the harvest:

  • The structure of the cocoa industries in 8 major cocoa producing countries is presented in Table 1.
  • Cocoa is a perennial tree crop of the humid tropics grown frequently under forest shade and a cocoa field has an economic life of some 25-30 years; in West Africa it is mostly grown, under extensive management system by smallholders (often with only 1-2 ha of the crop). It is estimated (see Table 1) that there are 1.7m cocoa smallholders in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.
  • The fruits (pods) take about 5 months from flowering/fruit-set to ripeness and are subject to a number of pests (in West Africa most importantly capsids) and diseases (most importantly in West Africa species of the pathogen Phytophthora).
  • Ripe fruits are harvested by farmers with long handled knives or machetes when the fruit has achieved a deep yellow colour (for most varieties); the harvested pods are collected together, broken open, usually with a wooden baton and the wet beans covered with sweet mucilage are removed by hand.
  • Ripe fruits are sometimes left in the field for up to 10 days -- a practice (called pod storage) which seems to enhance the flavour but is in fact usually done to allow enough labour to be assembled to break the pods all on the same day -- often a Saturday morning.


Fermentation process
Key features of the fermentation process:

  • The pod husk is discarded and the wet cocoa beans with their sweet mucilage are then fermented for a number of days; without this vital process, the chocolate flavour will not be fully developed on subsequent roasting in the factory.
  • For successful flavour development a fermentation heap (of from 90 to 250 kg of wet beans) will be built up on plantain leaves and then covered with more plantain leaves; these heaps should be constructed away from full sunlight and ideally should be turned after about 3 days to ensure even conditions throughout the heap. Plastic sheets are sometimes used.
  • On larger holdings, this fermentation can conveniently be carried out in wooden boxes usually 1.2 m by 1.2 m and beans are to a depth of 0.9 m and again would be turned at the third day; this would be about 1 tonne of wet beans.
  • The highly corrosive liquid run-off from either of these fermentation processes, starts on the second day and will be studied for the presence of OTA in the 2000/01 fieldwork.
  • On completion of fermentation, the cocoa is carried to the villages for drying on raised bamboo mats (almost always in Ghana), on concrete (frequently in Côte d'Ivoire). This can take from 7-10 days or even longer in cloudy/rainy conditions.


Drying cocoa
Key features of drying cocoa:

  • Drying the cocoa too quickly stops some of the chemical reactions started during fermentation and prevents escape of the remaining acids in the beans resulting in acidic flavours in the cocoa. Very fast drying can leave the cotyledons wet and merely dries the exterior of the bean, giving the misleading appearance that the cocoa is dry. After a few days in this situation, the moisture will migrate out to the shell, allowing fungal development and growth. If artificial drying is necessary the conditions should mimic sun drying as far as possible, using low temperatures/ambient air for the initial drying with higher temperatures only for the final stage.
  • Sun drying allows the sun and wind to take their effect, and combined with stirring ensures thorough drying, a process that also allows the removal of defective beans and gives cocoa of the best flavour quality. Drying on concrete can lead to the beans drying quickly and potentially introduces various sorts of externally imposed contamination. On raised bamboo mats the drying beans can be conveniently sorted and debris moved and their use enables the beans to be rolled up in the mat in the event of rain during drying.
  • When cocoa beans crackle in the hand if rubbed together, then they have achieved the desired level of about 7.5% moisture and after cooling for 24 hours are ready for sale.


Transit to port
Key features of transporting cocoa to port:

  • In both Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, the purchase of cocoa from farmers and its movement to port is in the hands of the private operators. The only State intervention is in Ghana where the Government controlled Quality Control Division (QCD) undertakes grading and sealing of cocoa into export sacks.
  • In Côte d'Ivoire, itinerant buyers with small pick-up trucks regularly come to the villages to buy cocoa for cash -- after a cursory quality and moisture check followed by crude weighing. The scales are rarely checked/corrected by the relevant authorities.
  • In Ghana, static buying premises are required under the relevant cocoa marketing legislation. The cocoa can be brought into the metal roofed shed by the farmer where it is weighed on certified scales.
  • In Côte d'Ivoire, the itinerant buyer (known as the traitant) pays cash directly to the farmer with little documentation and the cocoa will be delivered that same day to the collection centre in the nearest large town.
  • In Ghana, quality and moisture content will be thoroughly checked often in the presence of the farmer by the manager of the buying shed who will (usually) provide a cheque to the farmer and keep a detailed payment record.
  • From the collection centres, in the large towns of Côte d'Ivoire, the cocoa will be moved (certainly within days and sometimes within hours) to the exporters store in the port areas of Abidjan or San Pedro.
  • The marketing system in Ghana and the resulting high quality standards has been founded on the principal that cocoa bags are officially graded and sealed by QCD as close to the farm as possible -- in the village buying sheds. This means that cocoa may remain at the village level for some weeks, both before and after sealing by QCD.
  • In Ghana, once an adequate quantity of sealed cocoa and transport is available, then the buyer will move to the 'hand over point' where the cocoa is sold to the Government owned export company (the Cocoa Marketing Company or CMC) at a fixed price.
  • The fabric and the ventilation in many of the up-country cocoa stores in both Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana may be poorer than would be desirable. In the case of Ghana, cocoa may remain in these stores for some weeks.
  • Cocoa may also remain on lorries in the port area awaiting unloading for some days in both Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.
  • On unloading at the exporters store in Côte d'Ivoire, the cocoa would be checked for quality, re-dried if necessary (in an artificial drier), sieved and bagged into export sacks. The bagging stage would be omitted if cocoa is being shipped as bulk in containers or as megabulk (direct in the hold of the vessel). Cocoa may be ready for export within seven days of arrival at the exporters store.
  • In Ghana, the cocoa is purchased by CMC from the private buying company and placed into large piles in substantial, airy warehouses in the port area from which vessels can be loaded directly after fumigation of the cocoa.
  • For container shipments (either as bags or bulk in containers and either in Côte d'Ivoire or Ghana), the speed of loading of the container vessel requires that containers are stuffed well ahead of the ETA of the vessel. This may result in a container full of cocoa waiting in a container park for some time prior to loading.
  • The journey time from West Africa can be as short as 10/11 days or on occasions be as long as 38 days or longer is any transhipment is involved.
  • At port of destination, emptying of the containers maybe delayed for some days, a week or even longer.


1. Cocoa Production and Area Under Cultivation in the Major Producing Countries for 2013/14

MAJOR PRODUCING COUNTRY Cocoa Production (3-year Average to 2013/14) FARMERS LAND YIELD Land per Farmers Yields Increase
Brazil 210000 39757.65366 797424.9391 0.26334767 20.05714286 -0.051948387
Cameroon 214000 458759.5681 688139.3522 0.310983523 1.5 0.029379568
Côte d’Ivoire 1560000 1168856.312 2922140.78 0.533855183 2.5 0.019007787
Ecuador 203000 63957.8034 511662.4272 0.396745958 8 0.304302338
Ghana 870000 990240.437 2475601.093 0.351429801 2.5 0.175759863
Indonesia 408000 867414.199 912953.4445 0.446901211 1.0525 -0.39696984
Malaysia 4000 1401.403171 4881.55438 0.819411132 3.483333333 0.80270449
Nigeria 243000 416384.8955 832769.791 0.291797328 2 -0.188438681