Important Production Facts about cacao (Cocoa)

Production of cacao

The cocoa bean, also called cacao bean,[cocoa (/ˈkoʊ.koʊ/), and cacao (/kəˈkaʊ/), is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and, because of the seed’s fat, cocoa butter can be extracted. The beans are the basis of chocolate,

As of 2011, Cote d’Ivoire in is the largest producer of Cacao (Cocoa) in the World

Two African nations, Ivory Coast and Ghana, produce almost half of the world’s cocoa, with 1.448 and 0.835 million tonnes, respectively (31.6% and 18.22%, respectively)


Top cocoa bean producers
in 2013
(million metric tons)
 Ivory Coast 1.448
 Ghana 0.835
 Indonesia 0.777
 Nigeria 0.367
 Cameroon 0.275
 Brazil 0.256
 Ecuador 0.128
 Mexico 0.082
 Peru 0.071
 Dominican Republic 0.068
World total 4.585
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation

Production of Cacao  

A cocoa pod (fruit) has a rough, leathery rind about 2 to 3 cm (0.79 to 1.18 in) thick (this varies with the origin and variety of pod) filled with sweet, mucilaginous pulp (called baba de cacao in South America) with a lemonade-like taste enclosing 30 to 50 large seeds that are fairly soft and a pale lavender to dark brownish purple color.

During harvest, the pods are opened, the seeds are kept, and the empty pods are discarded. The seeds are placed where they can ferment. Due to heat buildup in the fermentation process, cacao beans lose most of the purplish hue and become mostly brown in color, with an adhered skin which includes the dried remains of the fruity pulp. This skin is released easily after roasting by winnowing. White seeds are found in some rare varieties, usually mixed with purples, and are considered of higher value.


Cocoa trees grow in hot, rainy tropical areas within 20° of latitude from the Equator. Cocoa harvest is not restricted to one period per year and a harvest typically occurs over several months. In fact, in many countries, cocoa can be harvested at any time of the year.[20] Pesticides are often applied to the trees to combat capsid bugs, and fungicides to fight black pod disease.


Immature cocoa pods have a variety of colours, but most often are green, red, or purple, and as they mature, their colour tends towards yellow or orange, particularly in the creases  Unlike most fruiting trees, the cacao pod grows directly from the trunk or large branch of a tree rather than from the end of a branch, similar to jackfruit. This makes harvesting by hand easier as most of the pods will not be up in the higher branches. The pods on a tree do not ripen together; harvesting needs to be done periodically through the year.[20] Harvesting occurs between three and four times weekly during the harvest season.

The ripe and near-ripe pods, as judged by their colour, are harvested from the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree with a curved knife on a long pole. Care must be used when cutting the stem of the pod to avoid damaging the junction of the stem with the tree, as this is where future flowers and pods will emerg] One person can harvest an estimated 650 pods per day.

Harvesting & Processing.


Special note: the long-term goal is for Cacao Producing countries in Africa to fully roast process their products into bars, bricks & related by products in order to benefit fully from the economic value of their commodities.

The harvested pods are opened, typically with a machete, to expose the beans. The pulp and cocoa seeds are removed and the rind is discarded. The pulp and seeds are then piled in heaps, placed in bins, or laid out on grates for several days. During this time, the seeds and pulp undergo “sweating”, where the thick pulp liquefies as it ferments. The fermented pulp trickles away, leaving cocoa seeds behind to be collected. Sweating is important for the quality of the beans, which originally have a strong, bitter taste. If sweating is interrupted, the resulting cocoa may be ruined; if underdone, the cocoa seed maintains a flavor similar to raw potatoes and becomes susceptible to mildew. Some cocoa-producing countries distill alcoholic spirits using the liquefied pulp.


A typical pod contains 20 to 50 beans and about 400 dried beans are required to make one pound (880 per kilogram) of chocolate. Cocoa pods weigh an average of 400 g (14 oz) and each one yields 35 to 40 g (1.2 to 1.4 oz) dried beans; this yield is 40–44% of the total weight in the pod. One person can separate the beans from about 2000 pods per day.

The wet beans are then transported to a facility so they can be fermented and dried. They are fermented for four to seven days and must be mixed every two days.  They are dried for five to 14 days, depending on the climate conditions. The fermented beans are dried by spreading them out over a large surface and constantly raking them. In large plantations, this is done on huge trays under the sun or by using artificial heat. Small plantations may dry their harvest on little trays or on cowhides. Finally, the beans are trodden and shuffled about (often using bare human feet) and sometimes, during this process, red clay mixed with water is sprinkled over the beans to obtain a finer color, polish, and protection against molds during shipment to factories in the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Drying in the sun is preferable to drying by artificial means, as no extraneous flavors such as smoke or oil are introduced which might otherwise taint the flavor.

The beans should be dry for shipment (usually by sea). Traditionally exported in jute bags, over the last decade, beans are increasingly shipped in “mega-bulk” parcels of several thousand tonnes at a time on ships, or in smaller lots around 25 tonnes in 20-ft containers. Shipping in bulk significantly reduces handling costs; shipment in bags, however, either in a ship’s hold or in containers, is still common.