Cocoa Cultivation in Ghana: Cultivation, Harvesting and Processing

Cocoa Cultivation in Ghana

Ghana is the world�s second-largest exporter of cocoa beans after the Ivory Coast. Historically, cocoa production has been the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy and today cocoa continues to be Ghana�s main agricultural export commodity and an important contributor to Ghana�s foreign exchange earnings and GDP. 800,000 smallholder farmers rely on cocoa as their main source of livelihood.


� Cocoa, an important commercial crop of the equatorial region, is extensively planted in areas bordering the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa which include the countries of Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Dahomey.

� In Ghana, the cocoa or chocolate tree was introduced about 90 years ago. Today, Ghana is an important producer of cocoa in the world. It accounts for about 11 percent of the world�s total. The cocoa plantations of Ghana are vast.



� It is believed that the cocoa tree first originated in the rain forests of Central and South America.
� It was planted by the natives of the region, the Aztecs and the Incas.
� The Aztecs enjoyed a bitter chocolate drink made from cocoa beans. They also used the cocoa beans as currency.
� It was so rare and expensive that only the royalty of Incas and Aztecs used it.
� The common people were not allowed to cultivate the cocoa plant. It was considered as the �food of the Gods�.
� Christopher Columbus discovered cocoa beans in America, but the beans did not become popular in Europe and Africa at that time.
� The Portuguese and Spanish brought cocoa seeds to Europe and Africa.


The Cocoa tree:-

� The cocoa tree is an evergreen plant. It grows to a height of 5 to 8 meters. Large pods containing beans to grow on the tree trunk not very high above the ground. Green pods grow to the size of 15cm to 25cm.
� When ripe they turn into yellow or red. Each pod contains 30 to 40 beans.
� Cocoa powder is obtained by grinding the beans.


Geographical Requirements For Cocoa Cultivation-


1. Climate:-

� The cocoa plants grow well in the equatorial environment with temperatures below 270 C. Annual rainfall between 200cm to 350cm is ideal.
� It requires high humidity and is sensitive to prolonged droughts.
� Its cultivation is restricted to areas between 200 North and South of the equator.


2. Shade:-

� The cocoa trees should be protected from direct sunlight as they are sensitive to direct sunlight.
� For this purpose, tall-growing plants such as banana plants, palm trees or other shady trees are usually grown between the trees.


3. Absence of Strong Winds:-

� Usually, the cocoa pods hang precariously on the trunk and the branches.
� Strong winds may blow off the unripe pods.
� Thus, Cocoa Cultivation is not favorable in areas where strong winds are common.


4. Soil:-

� Cocoa grows well in soils that are fairly deep and well-drained.
� Loamy soils rich in iron and potassium are ideal but light clays are also suitable.


Cultivation of cocoa trees:-

Generally, cocoa trees are grown together with bananas, maize, and cassava. In Ghana, cocoa is mostly grown on small farms of one or two hectares. The following are the important steps and features of cacao cultivation.

� First, the forests are cleared, leaving the larger trees for shade.
� The cocoa seeds are first grown in nurseries.
� The seeds are then transplanted in rows at a distance of about three to four meters.
� The cocoa tree, when mature, grows to a height of about 9meters.
� The trees are pruned to a height of about six meters so that the cocoa pods can be plucked easily.
� The flowers are followed by bright yellow pods which are about 15to 25centimeters long. The pods grow on the trunk and main branches.
� The trees continue to produce pods for about 30 to 40 years. Occasional weeding and manuring lengthen the lifespan of the trees.
� A mature tree produces 20 to 30 pods in a year.


Cocoa Harvesting:-

Harvesting takes place twice a year. The main harvest lasts from October to March and the interim harvest from May to August.
With great care, not damaging the branches the pods are harvested by the plantation workers.
1. After plucking the pods, they are split open with a sharp knife called a machete.
2. The pulp containing the precious cocoa beans is then removed from the pods and collected in large baskets. The seeds or beans are carefully taken out by hand.
3. The beans are heaped on the ground and covered with banana leaves. This process is called fermentation.
4. Fermentation prevents the seeds from germinating. It also removes the bitter taste of the fresh beans.
5. After fermentation, the beans are spread out and left to dry in the sun for about six days. The beans are turned regularly so that they retain just a fraction of moisture. In large plantations, the beans are dried using artificial heat.
6. When the seeds are thoroughly dry, they are packed and transported.


Cocoa Processing:-

Cocoa beans are processed to make cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, cocoa cake, and chocolate.
The following methods are used in Cocoa processing:
� At the processing center, the Cocoa beans are inspected and thoroughly cleaned to remove any sticks, stones, or broken beans.
� After cleaning, the beans are either roasted before the shell is removed or after removing the shell. The inside of the cocoa bean is called the nib.
� Roasting adds flavor to the beans. Once the beans are shelled and roasted, the nib is ground into a paste to make different products.


Problems faced during Cocoa Cultivation :

Although Ghana was the world�s largest cocoa producer in the early 1960s by the early 1980s production of Cocoa in Ghana decreased considerably. This was caused by aging trees, widespread disease, bad weather, bush fires, more incentives for growing maize, and the lower price paid to cocoa farmers.


� The farmers were provided with seedlings to replace old trees and trees lost in drought and fires.
� Insecticides were sprayed to control plant diseases.
� High yielding varieties were developed and fertilizers were used to increase production.
� The Ghana Cocoa Board was established in 1979. The Board raised the prices of Cocoa and introduced a new system providing greater incentives for growing cocoa.


All these measures helped the Cocoa industry in Ghana to flourish by leaps and bounds. At present, Cocoa is the most important cash crop of Ghana and its highest export earner.

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