The cocoa tree is a native to the Americas. It originated in Central American and part at Mexico. More than 5,000 years ago, it was consumed by pre-Columbia culture along the vocation long before the cocoa seed became popular; the sweet pulp of the chocolate fruits, used in making a fermented (5% alcohol) beverage, fruit drew attention to the plant in Americas.
Cacao is planted on over 70000 square kilometers worldwide with 40% of production coming from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia. Each country produces about 15%, with smaller amounts coming from Brazil, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
A tree begins to bear fruit when it is 4 or 5 years old. In one year, when mature, it may have 6,000 flowers, but only about 20 pods. About 300-600 seeds (10 pods) are required to produce around 1 kg of cocoa paste.
There are three main cultivar groups of cacao beans used to make cocoa and chocolate. The most prized, rare, and expensive is the Criollo Group, the cocoa bean used by the Maya. Only 10% of chocolate is made from the Criollo, which is less bitter and more aromatic than any other bean. The cacao bean in 80% of chocolate is made using beans of the Forastero Group. Forastero trees are significantly hardier than Criollo trees, resulting in cheaper cacao beans. Trinitario, a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, is used in about 10% of chocolate.
Tetteh Quarshie (1843 – 1892) was a pre-independence Ghanaian agriculturalist and the person directly responsible for the introduction of cocoa crops to Ghana, which today constitute one of the major export crops of the Ghanaian economy. Quarshie traveled to the island of Fernando Po (now Bioko in Equatorial Guinea) in 1870 and returned in 1876 to Ghana in order to introduce the crop. He died on Christmas Day 1892.
Cocoa is the chief agricultural export of Ghana and the country’s main cash crop. Behind Ivory Coast, Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world. Cocoa cultivation is not native to the country; Ghana’s cocoa cultivation, however, is noted within the developing world to be one of the most modeled commodities.
Cocoa production occurs in the country’s forested areas: Ashanti Region, Brong-Ahafo Region, Central Region, Eastern Region, Western Region, and Volta Region, where rainfall is 1,000-1,500 millimeters per year. The crop year begins in October, when purchases of the main crop begin, with a smaller mid-crop cycle beginning in July. All cocoa, except that which is smuggled out of the country, is sold at fixed prices to the Cocoa Marketing Board. Although most cocoa production is carried out by peasant farmers on plots of less than three hectares, a small number of farmers appear to dominate the trade. Indeed, some studies show that about one-fourth of all cocoa farmers receive just over half of total cocoa income.
In 1979, the government initiated reform of the cocoa sector, focusing on the government’s role in controlling the industry through the Cocoa Marketing Board. The board was dissolved and reconstituted as the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod). In 1984 it underwent further institutional reform aimed at subjecting the cocoa sector to market forces. Cocobod’s role was reduced, and 40 percent of its staff, or at least 35,000 employees, were dismissed. Furthermore, the government shifted responsibility for crop transport to the private sector. Subsidies for production inputs (fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, and equipment) were removed, and there was a measure of privatization of the processing sector through at least one joint venture. In addition, a new payment system known as the Akuafo Check System was introduced in 1982 at the point of purchase of dried beans. Formerly, produce buying clerks had often held back cash payments, abused funds, and paid farmers with false checks. Under the Akuafo system, a farmer was given a check signed by the produce clerk and the treasurer that he could cash at a bank of his choice.
Ghana’s cocoa production grew an average of 16% between 2000 – 2003. Cocoa has a long production cycle, far longer than many other tropical crops, and new hybrid varieties need over five years to come into production, and a further 10 to 15 years for the tree to reach its full bearing potential. The reasons for this huge production increase are varied and in fact Ghana’s cocoa yields per hectare are still low by international standards
PRODUCTS THAT CAN BE MADE FROM COCOA
Many different sorts of products can be derived from cocoa.
The husks of cocoa pods and the pulp, or sweating, surrounding the beans and the cocoa bean shells can be used. Some examples of these uses are:
Animal feed from cocoa husk – As pelletized dry 100% cocoa pod husk, it can be used as an animal feed. The animal feed is produced by first slicing the fresh cocoa husks into small flakes and then partially drying the flakes, followed by mincing and pelleting and drying of the pellets.
Production of soft drinks and alcohol – In the preparation of soft drinks, fresh cocoa pulp juice (sweating) is collected, sterilized and bottled. For the production of alcoholic drinks, such as brandy, the fresh juice is boiled, cooled and fermented with yeast. After 4 days of fermentation the alcohol is distilled.
Potash from cocoa pod husk – Cocoa pod husk ash is used mainly for soft soap manufacture. It may also be used as fertilizer for cocoa, vegetables, and food crops. To prepare the ash, fresh husks are spread out in the open to dry for one to two weeks. The dried husks are then incinerated in an ashing kiln.
Jam and marmalade – Pectin for jam and marmalade is extracted from the sweating by precipitation with alcohol, followed by distillation and recycling of the alcohol in further extractions.
Mulch – Cocoa bean shells can be used an organic mulch and soil conditioner for the garden.
Once the beans have been fermented and dried, they can be processed to produce a variety of products. These products include:
Cocoa butter – Cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate. It is also widely used in cosmetic products such as moisturizing creams and soaps.
Cocoa powder – Cocoa powder can be used as an ingredient in almost any foodstuff. For example, it is used in chocolate flavored drinks, chocolate flavored desserts such as ice cream and mousse, chocolate spreads and sauces, and cakes and biscuits.
Cocoa liquor – Cocoa liquor is used, with other ingredients, to produce chocolate. Chocolate is used as a product on its own or combined with other ingredients to form confectionery products.
- Magnus Sampson, Makers of Modern Ghana: From Philip Quarcoo to Aggrey. Volume One, Accra: Anowuo Educational Publications, 1969, pp. 69-70.
- D. H. Simpson, Gold Coast Men of Affairs, p. 208.
- Isaac Ephson, Gallery of Gold Coast Celebrities, p. 64.