Growing cocoa is no simple task, which is why we are working with cocoa farmers to help improve their farms. 90% of the world’s cocoa beans are harvested on small, family-run farms with less than two hectares of land and an average yield of just 600-800 kg per year. And most of this cocoa comes from West Africa.
Low productivity, low farmer incomes and limited development in farming communities has created a cycle that must be broken for cocoa farming to be sustainable.
Cocoa is also a delicate, sensitive plant. It requires high rainfall and temperatures to grow, as well as rainforest trees to offer shade and protection from too much light and damage caused by wind. Because cocoa farms are sensitive to this type of climate, they can only flourish in a narrow band of countries between 20 degrees north and south of the equator.
As the one of the world’s largest chocolate makers, we have a stake in protecting these origins. We do so through Abveenacity, which is active across all major cocoa origins from Africa to Asia to the Americas. We are committed to making a difference in these communities.
A LOOK AT THE COCOA GROWING PROCESS
Farmers must protect trees from wind and sun, fertilize the soil, and watch for signs of disease or distress. With proper care, most cocoa trees yield pods by the fourth or fifth year and can continue for another 30 years.
A typical pod contains 30 to 40 beans and there are about 30 pods per tree; approximately 400 dried beans are required to make one pound of cocoa.
Most countries have two periods of peak production per year: A main harvest, and a smaller harvest.
Cocoa farmers use long-handled steel tools to reach the pods and cut them without wounding the soft bark of the tree. Farmers collect the pods in baskets.
Fermentation and drying
Post-harvest processing has the biggest impact on cocoa quality and, consequently, on cocoa taste.
The farmer removes the beans from the pods, packs them into boxes or heaps them into piles, then covers them with mats or banana leaves for three to seven days. The layer of pulp that naturally surrounds the beans heats up and ferments the beans, which enhances the cocoa flavor. The beans are then dried in the sun for several days.
Selling, transporting, and shipping
The dried beans are packed into sacks, and the farmer sells his product to a buying station.
The buyer transports the sacks to an exporting company where the sacks are inspected, put into burlap, sisal, or plastic bags, and transported to the exporter’s warehouse, where the beans are stored until they’re shipped to a manufacturer.