Ivory Coast Cocoa

Introduced in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in 1888 in Aboisso by Verdier and Bretignierds, the culture of the cocoa tree has taken a significant place in the Ivorian economy. Cocoa represents nearly 10% of the country’s GDP and 40% of its export revenues, ($789 billion CFA Francs in 1998).  The cocoa production increased from 725,393 tons in 1990 to 1.4 million tons in 2002.

Today, Côte d’Ivoire has positioned itself as the leading cocoa producer country in the world. This success has been performed by approximately 600,000 farmers who are helping 6 million of persons live from these cocoa export revenues.

At the beginning, the largest zones of production were located in the eastern and center part of the country. These regions were part of the ” Cocoa belt”. Given the climatic changes and the degradation of soils, a new front of cocoa culture has developed in the western part of the country, along with the migration flows of populations within the country (center, center-eastern, and north) and from outside. Therefore, the main cacao zone is currently the center-western part of the country, with 36% of the total national production. This production zone and the one from the south-western part of the country have seen their production grow whereas the southern and center-eastern part of the country’s have decreased.

The cocoa culture in Côte d’Ivoire did not required heavy investments in agricultural supplies and tools. It is generally not heavily mechanized and operates with small tools such as machete and daba. Other tools required include modern tools such as atomizers and sprayers for phyto-sanitary treatments.

Cocoa farming process

The cocoa farming process includes:

Land preparation and shadowed construction

The land preparation in old forestry areas focuses on cutting of wood, cutting down and cleaning of short trees after burning. The cutting of wood must be performed through a selection process; i.e., eliminate the adversary trees to the cocoa tree such as samba and cola nitida.

 

Staking-out to the plantation

Several plans of plantations could be adopted (square plantations, in triangle) but the simpler one and the most frequent one is the plantation in lines. This method helps ease the upkeep, controls and phyto-sanitary treatment operations.

The plantation devices recommended currently in Côte d’Ivoire are three meters between the lines and 2 to 2.5 meter on the lines, i.e., 1,320 to 1,660 trees per hectare. It is recommended making the hole once the first rains have help soften enough the soil for the work to be done without difficulty.  A hole of 40 cm in all senses is perfect.  The planting takes place during the raining season. The best seedlings are loaded from the nursery to the field, early in the morning, and then placed in the holes. The weeds must be stripped from the bag before being put in the hole.

 

Upkeep

1.    Filling out of lefts seedlings
The seedlings die off  for a few reasons, often damage from insects or injury during the cleaning process of the plantation. Their replacement consists of planting new seedlings. This must be done as soon as possible, preferably during the first year.

2.    Shading Adjustment
The adjustment of the shading is very important for a young plants. During the first year, a thick shading scheme is necessary (leave only 25 to 50% of the total light). It must be progressively reduced to leave 50 to 75% of the total light when the cocoa trees have reached their full development process (from three years).

3.    Pruning of the cocoa tree
The operation of pruning is an upkeep operation. It consists of eliminating the advantice to favor the formation of the crown. Two types of height are available: the height of the formation in order to detect the best stems, and the height of plants.

4.   Phyto-sanitary treatments and contribution of fertilizers
On the young plantations, a phyto-sanitary supervision must be regularly undertaken because insect damage not harmful to adult trees could be damaging for seedlings and could endanger their development.

For the first two years, the phyto-sanitary treatments on the cocoa planting focuses on the mirides or capsides (parasite insects of the cocoa trees). The anti-capside treatments are undertaken by the application of specific insecticides through sprays. There are two types of treatments per year when insecticides of third generation are utilized (most often used). The periods of treatment are January-February and from July to August.

In the case of an intensive culture undertaken with permanent shading and using a vegetal material selected for its high productivity potential, the introduction of pesticides is necessary.

5.    Cleaning
The cleaning consists of cutting the plantation, proceed to cutting down of the land and to the suppression of the branches. This operation is performed with a machete. In the non-productive plantations, there must be at least three cleaning processes during a season (October to September of the following year).

 

7.    Harversting ( video )

The  color change by which the maturity of pods is noted regularly.  For example, the green changing to yellow, and the red to orange. The harvesting must be undertaken at regular intervals ranging from ten to fifteen days, and never to exceed three weeks. The picking is a delicate operation where much care must be given not to hurt the small flower cushions. The picking of pods of trunk and lower branches is done easily with a machete. Those from higher branches require the use of a tool with a haft for pruning.

8.    Cocoa cracking

After harvesting, the pods are carried out near the location where the beans must be fermented. The cocoa cracking will consist of breaking the fruit and take away the beans which, separated from the placenta, will be then processed to the fermentation process. The cocoa cracking is done with a club.

9.    Fermentation ( video )

Before being dried, the fresh cocoa beans must be treated through a process with the objectives of:

  • Taking away the mucilaginous pulp round it.
  • Provoking the death of the embryo and therefore prevent the germination of beans allowing their conservation.
  • Help bringing the precursors of the chocolate flavor. This is the fermentation process. To reach this process, beans are put together in protected piles outside with banana leaves. The suggested length for the fermentation process in Côte d’Ivoire is 6 days with a melting of piles every two days.

10.    Drying ( video )

The drying process’ objective to bring the percentage of moisture of fermented beans, which his approximately 60%, at a value of 6 to 7%. The moisture of dried cocoa bean must be maintained at this level to insure the good condition of the beans.

The methods used for the drying of cocoa could be classified into two large groups: natural drying (solar) on the grids arranged appropriately; and the artificial drying through thermal drying outlets.