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Ceremonial Cacao y mucho más

Cocoa cultivation. Where is 70% cocoa grown?

Reading time: 4 minutes

The cultivation of cocoa, or Cocoa proper (Theobroma cacao) originating from the rainforests of South America, has spread to many regions of the world, and Cocoa is one of the most important plants for man. Bill Laws described it for a reason in his book: "50 plants that changed the course of history" (Alma-Press 2016). Charles Linnaeus called cocoa "the food of the gods." In Latin American countries, in the pre-conquistador period, ceremonial cocoawas made of it, which was drunk at the Mayan and Aztec courts. Later, at the turn of the century, cocoa cultivation spread to many other regions. It is of the greatest importance for African countries.

Learn more about the properties of cocoa

Cocoa cultivation in numbers

According to the 70% of cocoa that enters the global market comes from four West African countries, i.e. Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon [1]. The hegemons are the first two countries, which account for more than 50% of production. In Ghana (formerly known as the Gold Coast), cocoa has saved and is saving lives. After independence in 1957, 80% of the inhabitants lived on agriculture, mainly engaged in cocoa cultivation [2]. Much in this topic has not changed to this day. In WKS, the "tradition" of cultivation was imposed by the French and now it is the largest producer of cocoa.

Slightly less important producers include Indonesia, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. Most of the plantations are located on small areas – up to five hectares. Only 5% of the crop is obtained from large plantations (over 40 ha). This has its advantages – cocoa gives jobs to 40 to 50 million farmers!

Raw cocoa "growing" on trees

Cocoa is a small tree growing up to several meters high without human intervention. On plantations, it is pruned to high. 3-5m to facilitate care treatments and harvesting. It produces oblong berries that resemble the balls used in American football. Initially, the fruits are green with ripening turn yellow (or burgundy). In each of them there are 20-30 grains dipped in sweet pulp.Cocoa fruits differ in color and size. A common feature is a hard peel and white flesh inside. Cocoa bears fruit all year round. Despite this, cultivation is not effective.

About half a kilogram of grains are harvested from one tree in a year. As a result, about a ton of cocoa is obtained from a hectare of plantations. Harvesting is manual – fruits are cut with mosques or knocked down with sticks. You have to be careful not to damage the tree. It is fragile and has a shallow root system. Climbing the branches to the higher parts of the crown is too risky for him. It remains to use long poles and jacks. Determining which fruits are ripe requires experience. Despite the year-round yield, the fruits are generally harvested seasonally, usually twice a year. Harvesting is followed by pulp fermentation, grain shelling, secondary fermentation, drying, roasting and grinding.

Learn more about raw cocoa

Cocoa cultivation (Criolllo cocoa growing on a tree)
Cocoa cultivation

How is cocoa grown?

Growing cocoa is time-consuming and difficult. To set up a plantation, you need to sow grains that are collected directly from the fruit or have not yet had time to dry (or they have been protected against this). The species quickly loses its germination power. Seeds are often sown in protective baskets, even in plastic bottles in nurseries, where they are protected from the sun and wind. Seedlings grow so quickly that after just a few months they are ready to be planted on a permanent place. With good conditions and regular cutting, they bear fruit in the fifth year after planting. It is not known how long the life of the tree is (there are single over 200-year-old specimens). In contrast, the economic usefulness of cocoa is estimated at 25 years [3].


Cocoa likes a large amount of scattered light. Direct light, especially in the initial period of cultivation, harms it. Later, it relatively copes as long as the substrate is rich in nutrients and regular irrigation. Wind protection is also necessary. Therefore, cocoa trees are planted in the shade of such trees as banana, rubber and coconut.


The tree needs high humidity of the air and the substrate throughout the growing season. The optimal distribution of precipitation is 1250-3000 mm per year, with precipitation must be uniform and drought periods not longer than 3 months. This is one of the main problems of growers.


The minimum cultivation temperature is 18°C, the maximum is 32°C. Under such conditions, cocoa develops properly. If the temperature stays below 10°C for several days, this has a significant negative impact on yield. At 4°C, trees are dying.


Cocoa is grown on different types of soil, but high abundance and the ability to retain moisture are indicated. It is also important that the substrate is fertile at least up to a depth of 1m. The pH range is maintained between 4.5-7.0 (optimally 6.5) [4].

Growing cocoa trees requires meeting many conditions and in addition largely depends on the vagaries of the weather. When the harvest is successful, the grains after processing go to countries around the world. And we will enjoy another cup of hot ceremonial cocoa.

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[5] P. Lavrovsky; How to distinguish cocoa beans?; The world of chocolate; 5/2018; s:60-64

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