An Introduction to Cocoa

Cocoa is valued around the world as the base ingredient in many chocolate foods and drinks.

Production is limited to tropical areas and cocoa is often grown as a low input crop. 

Cocoa is most commonly grown by individual farmers on a small scale basis. The smallest producers have a few trees – often around 5-50 in number - adjacent to their home. These trees are given minimal inputs and receive recycled nutrients from leaf litter, or compost/manures from farm animals. Production from these farms is quite low.

Other farmers grow cocoa as a crop, in districts, which have the support of local processing facilities. These farms are generally larger with 400 to 2000 trees across 0.5-2ha. On these larger farms, effective use of pruning, grafting, agrochemicals and fertilizer help ensure cocoa production is improved. There are very few large cocoa plantations as the investment required for these ventures tends to go into other crops such as oil palm or rubber, or to food cash crops.

As a consequence, there is great potential to improve cocoa production through introducing better farm management practices. As always, this requires extensive work and demonstration at the local farm level to educate farmers of the value of these improved farm practices. Farmers need advice on both tree management techniques and post-harvest handling to get the best value from their cocoa.