Cocoa harvesting in Ghana.

Africa is the main producer of cocoa: each year many millions of small farms harvest about 70% of the world’s cocoa crop. Ivory Coast and Ghana are the leading countries. They each contribute 40% and 15% respectively.

Although cocoa naturally originates from the rain forests in Latin America, the world’s largest crops are now cultivated in Africa and Asia. So how did cocoa cross the Pacific?

The start of cocoa cultivation in Africa dates from the end of the 18th century, although it was not a major success at first. The original Criollo types of cocoa – excellent in quality but very sensitive to pests – did not root very well on African soil. Some decades later, a stronger cocoa variety, though with a poorer quality – the Forastero – was introduced on the isles of São Tomé and Fernando Po.

This introduction and the first encouraging crops from it coincided with the global rise in demand for cocoa in this era of the first industrialization.

At the same time, political instability and crop diseases threatened cocoa production in Latin America, so traders started looking for new territories where the cultivation of cocoa could be developed. Around this period, cocoa cultivation was first exported to the equatorial regions of Sri Lanka and Java (Indonesia).

Today, although Latin America is still a very important supplier of good quality cocoa, the largest crop production has shifted to Africa (Ivory Coast and Ghana) and Asia (Indonesia).

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