News Excerpt: 

A shortage of cocoa beans has led to a near shutdown of processing plants in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two countries responsible for 60% of global production.

Reason for cocoa production declined sharply in west Africa:

  • Three factors are at play: environmental, economic cycle related and human.
    • Environmental factor is the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon, which has caused drier weather in west Africa. It has contributed to problems on farms, such as the swollen shoot virus disease. As a result, Ghana has lost harvests from nearly 500,000 hectares of land in recent years.
    • The economic cycle of cocoa production refers to the inherent patterns of expansion and contraction in cocoa farming. For example, as cocoa trees age, they become susceptible to diseases, requiring high maintenance costs.
      • Historically, farmers have tended to abandon old farms and start anew in fresh forests. 
      • Unfortunately, finding new forests is now increasingly difficult. Perhaps the most severe issue of all is the lack of fair compensation for sustainable cocoa production
    • The human factor includes challenges such as illegal mining, which has overtaken numerous farms in Ghana. Sometimes, farmers lease their land to illegal miners in exchange for payment. These mining activities degrade the quality of the land, making it unsuitable for cocoa cultivation.
  • The global market for chocolate and chocolate products is on the rise. It is projected to grow faster than 4% annually over the next few years. This growing demand for cocoa underscores the urgency in addressing the intertwined issues that relate to the industry’s sustainability.

How have cocoa farmers and cocoa-producing countries’ economies been affected?

  • At the farm level, although the rise in prices may initially appear beneficial to farmers, the reality is not straightforward. 
    • A decrease in output leads to fewer harvests on average, which means that, overall, farmers are not earning more. 
    • This issue is compounded by recent economic challenges in west Africa, such as high inflation and currency devaluation, particularly in Ghana. 
      • These factors have resulted in farmers becoming poorer.
  • Another impact of the output decline is a reduction in local processing. 
    • Major African processing facilities in Ivory Coast and Ghana have either ceased operations or reduced their processing capacity because they cannot afford to purchase beans. 
  • This likely means that chocolate prices worldwide will surge. This, in turn, adversely affects the local production units that have been emerging in recent years.
  • However, the bargaining power of west African cocoa-producing countries seems to have increased. 
    • Now is an opportune moment for these nations to unite and negotiate more favourable terms for their cocoa farmers.

About cocoa:

  • Cocoa is the dried and partially fermented fatty seed of the cacao tree from which chocolate is made. 
    • The word cocoa also is used to refer to cocoa powder, the dry powder made by grinding cocoa seeds and removing the cocoa butter from the dark, bitter cocoa solids. 
  • While the bean products are known by different names, typically, cocoa is considered the solids of the cacao seed (bean), cocoa butter is the fat component, and chocolate is the combination of the solids and the fat.

Condition of Production for Cocoa:

  • Cocoa can be grown up to 300 m above mean sea level.  
  • It requires a minimum of 90-100 mm rainfall per month with an annual rainfall of 1500-2000 mm. 
    • The plants need an equitable climate with well distributed rainfall.  If dry periods are prolonged, irrigation scheduling is necessary.  
  • The temperature range of 15°-39°C with optimum of 25°C is considered ideal.

Soil for Cocoa: 

  • Cocoa requires deep and well drained soils.  
  • Poorly drained soil affects the growth of plants. 
  • Majority of area under Cocoa cultivation is on clay loam and sandy loam soil.  
  • It grows well in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.0.

Shade Requirement:

  • Cocoa was evolved as an under-storey crop in the Amazonian forests. 
  • Commercial cultivation of cocoa can be taken up in plantations where 50 percent of light is ideally available.  

Major producing Region:

  • Africa is the world's leading producer of cocoa, with Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana being the top two producers.  
  • Other major producing regions include Southeast Asia and Latin America.
    • Africa: Cameroon, Nigeria
    • Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia
    • Latin America: Ecuador, Brazil, Peru

Impact of this situation on chocolate makers and cocoa alternatives

  • It’s inevitable because continuing to cultivate cocoa under current conditions is unsustainable. 
  • The German company Planet A Foods is a leader in this area. It produces cocoa-free chocolate, using technology to transform ingredients such as oats and sunflower seeds into substitutes for cocoa mass and butter.
  • Overall, this is beneficial for everyone. 
    • The demand for cocoa has resulted in mass deforestation and significant carbon emissions, issues that are likely to worsen due to climate change. 
    • Moreover, the push for cultivation has led to various forms of labour abuses. 
    • Exploring cocoa alternatives is certainly part of the solution.

Cocoa production in India

  • Cocoa is an important plantation crop grown for chocolates around the world.
    • In India, coconut and areca nut gardens are suited best for cultivating Cocoa.  
    • Under arecanut 30-50% of sunlight penetrates through their canopy which can be intercepted by cocoa.
  • In India Cocoa is being cultivated in the States of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in an area of 1,03,376 ha with total production of 27,072 MT. 
    • Andhra Pradesh ranks first in area with 39,714 ha and production of 10,903 MT.
    • The highest productivity is also in Andhra Pradesh which is 950 kg/ha .
    • The average productivity of cocoa in India is 669 Kg/ha.


Hence the current situation related to cocoa in west africa has both positive and negative impact on various stakeholders. It will affect world order in cocoa production and trade.

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