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. In Ghana, the government closely cooperates with the private sector to ensure continuous growth in the cocoa production.
Cocoa cultivation began in Ghana, which was fostered by Tetteh Quarshie, who, in 1879, returned to his farm in the Eastern Region of Ghana with cocoa beans from Equatorial Guinea where there was already extensive plantation production of cocoa. This resulted in the spread of cocoa to other regions of Ghana. Currently there are 6 cocoa growing regions in the country.
Cocoa was first exported at the end of the 19th century, and between 1911 and 1976 Ghana was the world’s leading producer, contributing between 30% to 40% of the world’s total output. Today, West Africa supplies 70% of the world’s cocoa and Ghana is the second largest producer. There are currently around 1.6 million people involved in growing cocoa and many more in associated industries.
Despite the growing demand, the cocoa industry faces big challenges. It is predicted that by 2020 there will be a global shortage of cocoa.
The main factors responsible for affecting the industry are: aged farms, diseases and the decline of the soil fertility. To address these threats, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), the official agency, was established in the 60s to focus on the production, research, internal and external marketing of Ghana cocoa and also to preserve the premium quality of the beans.
First of all, the aim of COCOBOD is to encourage the production of cocoa, coffee, and sheanut. Secondly, controlling pests and diseases of cocoa and sheanut, and thirdly, promotion of scientific research aimed at improving the quality of cocoa.
Its research arm, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), established in 1938, undertakes a scientific research to come up with solutions. It plays a critical role in assisting the Cocoa Board in raising cocoa production using specially developed nutrients and fertilizers.
“Cocoa is Ghana and Ghana is Cocoa”
The quote “Cocoa is Ghana and Ghana is Cocoa” portrays the important role cocoa plays in the economy of Ghana. Cocoa is currently the number two export product of Ghana. It used to be the number one when Ghana was the leading exporter of cocoa in the world. Côte d’Ivoire has overtaken Ghana in the production of cocoa in terms of quantity. In terms of quality, however, Ghana cocoa is still the premium cocoa of the world. No big chocolate manufacturer processes cocoa without using at least some part of Ghana premium cocoa beans. Japanese chocolate, for example, is seen as excellent quality because it maintains the pure quality of Ghanaian cocoa.
Ghana cocoa is still the premium cocoa of the world. No big chocolate manufacturer processes cocoa without using at least some part of Ghana premium cocoa beans.
Cocoa now accounts for about 2 billion dollars of Ghana’s export earnings. This is very good revenue that annually contributes to the country’s GDP.
From a bean to a chocolate bar
It is estimated that there are 800,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana with the majority being smallholders. When the cocoa bean leaves the farm, it’s still a long way from the world’s favorite treat. The matured fruits are harvested with long machetes and then opened with a wooden stick and the beans need to be scooped out by hand. The wet cocoa beans are then fermented from 5 to 7 days. The fermentation is done in a heap using banana leaves. The beans are turned over at least 3 times to make sure that the cocoa is properly fermented. This influences the cocoa quality significantly. Then the beans need to dry in the sun from 10 to 14 days. Farmers deliver the dry beans to agents of license buying companies (LBCs), where the quality control officers sample the beans to ensure that they are fairly dry. Cocoa beans then are delivered to cocoa marketing companies (CMC) for shipment to local and international buyers.
Japan-Ghana: cocoa relations
Last year Ghana and Japan celebrated the 63rd anniversary of importation of cocoa beans into Japan.
Ghana works closely in conjunction with the chocolate and confectionery manufacturers of Japan in order to expose more people to the benefits of cocoa and cocoa products and to increase consumption.
Executives of the Chocolate and Cocoa Association of Japan (CCAJ) cooperate with Management of COCOBOD on the use of agro-chemicals for cocoa production and shipment of cocoa from Ghana to Japan. COCOBOD educates farmers about the use of chemicals approved by CRIG on their cocoa farms to avoid possible rejection of cocoa beans by overseas buyers including Japan. This is to make sure that all possibilities of diseases and pests that affect cocoa are eliminated and that there is a proper application of chemicals.
Lotte Japan uses Ghana’s premium cocoa to make their chocolates. So, recently the Embassy is promoting increased production for bigger consumption of cocoa and chocolates in Japan.
Is cocoa only used to produce chocolate?
The cocoa products include chocolates, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, cocoa soap, cocoa spread, and cocoa liqueur.
- Animal feed from cocoa husk: A pelletised dry 100% cocoa pod husk, it can be used as an animal feed.
- Production of soft drinks and alcohol: In the preparation of soft drinks, fresh cocoa pulp juice (sweatings) is collected, sterilised and bottled. For the production of alcoholic drinks, such as brandy, the fresh juice is boiled, cooled, and fermented with yeast.
- 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.
- Fruits preserves: Jam and marmalade.
- Mulch: Cocoa bean shells can be used as an organic mulch and soil conditioner for the garden.
Festivals around cocoa bean
Despite being a leading world producer of cocoa, the per capita consumption of cocoa in Ghana is below that of Africa’s 0.4%.
An annual chocolate festival has been, therefore, organized by the Ghana COCOBOD to draw more attention to the health and economic benefits of cocoa and its products to enhance its consumption among Ghanaians.
The most recent celebration of the Ghana Cocoa Festival took place on 13th February this year in Accra. One of the objectives of this year’s festival was to promote the youth to go into cocoa production because most of the farmers are now ageing, so the government wants to encourage young people to enter this industry. Therefore, this year’s celebration was called “Youth in cocoa sustaining production in Ghana”.
Are there health benefits of cocoa?
The Head of the Anatomy Department of the University of Ghana Medical School (UGMS), Prof Federick Addai conducted extensive research into the benefits of cocoa.
Known as the “Food for the Gods,” the consumption of cocoa also minimizes worrisome changes that accompany menopause, has an aphrodisiac effect, prevents stroke by improving blood circulation, fights dental decay and stress, and provides energy and vitality.
Did you know?
Cocoa bean can only be grown 10 degrees on either side of the Equator because the trees grow well in humid tropical climates with regular rains and a short dry season.
From bean to bar:
Cocoa beans grow in pods, directly from the trunk of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao, or “food of the gods.”) One tree produces between 20 and 30 pods a year, each containing 20 to 50 almond-sized cocoa beans. A year’s harvest from one tree-processed into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter or cocoa powder-is enough to make up to 500g of chocolate.