Today, West Africa is famous to the whole world for the conquest of the cocoa industry. Ivory Coast has the largest number of processing companies. However, in order to get this well-known product, special conditions are required. Not many people think about what is behind the chocolate bar.
Growing cocoa trees has become one of the most common types of income for farmers in West Africa. In Ivory Coast, at the age of 10, children of farmers help in processing companies under the tight conditions.
The tree “Cocoa” has a scientific botanical name Theobroma cacao. It was given in 1753 by the Swedish naturalist Karl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), which means in Latin “food of the gods”.
By nature, cocoa blooms almost all year round and the branches and trunks of cocoa trees are literally covered with dense, five-petal flowers of delicate pink-reddish tones, and in any season farmers can see flowers and fruits at the same time on the branches of cocoa trees. However, almost a tenth of all flowers turn into cocoa beans.
The trees can reach a height of 10-15 meters, but on the plantations, they are usually pruned at a level of several meters to facilitate the collection of fruits. Each tree brings such fruits pieces 20-30 per year. And they are formed not only on the branches but also on the trunk of the tree. The hard fruits of a cocoa tree are like small melons or rugby balls. Their length is 15-30 centimeters, weight – 400-500 grams. It is difficult to determine the color because as the cocoa beans ripen, it changes from green to yellow, red or orange.
Each fruit contains from 20 to 30 seeds, which are laid in five rows. This is what 500 years ago called “cocoa beans”. So they are called today, but they have nothing to do with real beans and legumes.
Cocoa seeds (they are also beans) can be round, flat, convex, with a grayish, bluish or brownish tinge. Ripe seeds roll inside the fruit with a thud. Under the good conditions, the tree gives up to 2 kilograms of cocoa beans per year.
Freshly harvested cocoa beans are unsuitable for use in the manufacture of chocolate and are not suitable for any food purposes. However, it is one of the most “demanding” seeds in the world. If they are not taken care of, they lose their germination in a few days.
The cocoa tree grows relatively slowly, even on the most well-groomed and carefully prepared lands, they begin to bear fruit only 305 years after planting. To achieve maximum yield trees, need 10 years and good conditions, but in general, the fruiting period can last up to 50 years.
The Process of Production
Cocoa is not only a commodity but also an income of 40-50 million farmers in West Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
Production can hardly be called modern and advanced: 90 percent of cocoa is grown on small farms by farmers. Cocoa fruits ripen throughout the year, but the main crop is harvested twice a year: in November-January and May-July. The optimal time for harvesting is 2–3 weeks after fruit ripening. The thick shell of the fruit is opened with a sharp knife-machete (often also with a wooden hammer or two fruits against each other), the cocoa beans are manually removed, dried for 24 hours in the sun, covered in troughs or boxes, covered with banana leaves or burlap, left for 24– 48 hours and then dried in the sun for three days.
Then the beans are piled up in moderately heated rooms and left for 4-6 days or placed in barrels and buried in the ground (at the same time). During such processing, they undergo fermentation, due to which they acquire brown tones of different degrees of saturation, an oily taste, and a pleasantly sweet aroma. After that, they are scattered on dry soil or mats, dried in the sun for 4–6 days, at the same time picking up spoiled or damaged ones.
Despite the method of transportation of commodity, there are mandatory conditions for the transport of it. The container must be completely clean, as well as to avoid extraneous odors.
Therefore, professional transport companies should always be responsible for the microclimate of the container. It is worth noting that commodity can be unloaded and immersed only with the help of gloves and clean clothes.
Cocoa beans very easily absorb moisture and odors, that is why they are transported in special bags of jute, and the powder can be transported only in wooden containers but sometimes bags can heat up from friction, and if moisture appears, this leads to damage to the commodity.
The World Market
Ivory Coast is the predominant country in the cocoa industry, with a total volume of 30% of total world production. Most of the world demand for this product comes from processing companies.
During 2016-2017, the global demand for chocolate confectionery products exceeded 7,450 tons, which is 10 percent more compared to 2011 figures.
The demand for the chocolate industry is fueled by increased consumption in China and India. In India, consumption grew by 13 percent in 2016. 20 percent of global chocolate consumption comes from the United States. The highest chocolate consumption per capita in Switzerland is 11 kg/year of chocolate.
Cocoa beans prices showed good growth, driven by declining bean revenues in the ports of Ivory Coast, as well as the end of the 2017 and 2018 season in West African countries with lower carry-overs, which seasonally contributes to price increases. The low liquidity in the Ivory Coast financial system, which is caused by the liquidation of the largest local exporter of cocoa beans, creates problems for cocoa exports at the beginning of the new 2019 season.
Many economists believe that the cocoa industry balance will shift from a surplus to a shortage of supply due to a decline in the production of beans in the world and the return to the market of processing companies.