some of the products of cocoa. Cocoa is a perennial crop which is planted once and the harvest keeps coming, year in year out. Cocoa beans is one of the hottest agricultural product in the market anywhere in the world.
Setting Up the Farm
A large expanse of forest land with the correct climate and suitable rainfalls is very important in starting a cocoa farm. Cocoa seedling needs to be handled with extra care because of its sensitivity, if handled carelessly, it can die. The cocoa trees require an even temperatures between 21-23 degrees Celsius and a fairly constant rainfall of 1000-2500mm per year. Agricultural institutes would be a good place to get good and improved cocoa seeds with all the necessary advice needed for greater yield. The best time to plant cocoa seed is at the beginning of the raining season, around April-May, when the rain is getting started.
Climatic Condition for Cocoa Farming
The largest producing countries are Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia. The climatic factors, particularly temperature and rainfall, are important in encouraging maximum growth. A maximum annual average temperature of 30 - 32ºC and a minimum average of 18 - 21ºC. Difference in the yield of cocoa trees over the years is mainly caused by rainfall than by any other climatic factor. Trees are very sensitive to a soil water deficiency. Rainfall should be sufficient and well distributed through the year. Cocoa strive well under an average annual rainfall of 1,500mm - 2,000mm. A situation where rainfall is less than 100mm per month should not be tolerated for more than three months. The cocoa tree will make optimum use of any light available and traditionally has been grown under shade.
Soil Condition and Property
Cocoa needs a soil containing coarse particles and with a reasonable quantity of nutrients, to a depth of 1.5m to allow the development of a good root system. Below that level it is desirable not to have impermeable material, so that excess water can drain away. Cocoa will withstand water logging for a short periods, but excess water should not linger. The cocoa tree is sensitive to lack of water, so the soil must have both water retention properties and good drainage.
Criollos - This variety was the commonest in the market until the middle of the eighteenth century, but today, it is no more common, only a few Criollo trees remains.
Forastero - This cocoa is considered the oldest of all cocoa varieties and boasts of very good harvests due to its robustness. It accounts for some 80% of global cocoa cultivation. Typical characteristics of Forastero are its powerful, less odour cocoa flavour that are sometimes bitter or acidic. This specie is very common in Nigeria and Ghana.
The Trinitario - This specie is considered to belong to the Forasteros, although they are descended from a cross between Criollo and Forastero. Trinitario is commonly found in Trinidad, Cameroon, and Papua New Guinea. Trinitario cocoa has a strong aromatic cocoa taste and is only slightly acidic.
Cocoa Breeding Methods
Cocoa is first raised from seeds taken from pods not more than 15 days under ripe. Seeds will then germinate and produce a good cocoa plant. Seedlings are usually planted in the ground when they are 4-6 months old.
Cutting - Tree cuttings are taken with between two and five leaves and one or two buds. The leaves are cut in half and the cutting placed in a pot under polyethylene until roots begin to grow.
Budding - A bud is cut from a tree and placed under a flap of bark on another tree. The budding patch is then bound with raffia and waxed tape of clear plastic to prevent moisture loss. When the bud is growing, the old tree above it is cut off.
Marcotting - A strip of bark is removed from a branch and the area covered in sawdust and a polyethylene sheet. The area will produce roots and the branch can then be chopped off and planted.
Cocoa trees should be protected against pests and diseases for maximum yield. Once the farmer notices that 3-4 cocoa trees has been infested by diseases, he should use the necessary disease control measures to curtail its spread. Use of pesticides and insecticides are necessary in cocoa farming. Some of the cocoa diseases include: black pod, charcoal pod rot, seedling die back amongst others.
Pods containing cocoa beans grows from the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree. Harvesting involves removing the ripe pods from the tree and opening them to extract the wet beans. Cocoa pods do not all ripen at the same time, so it is advisable to harvest at regular intervals. Cocoa pods are harvested with the use of a Go-To-Hell. During harvesting, it is important not to damage the flower cushion which will produce the fruits for the next harvest.
When harvesting, proper care has to be taken to protect the bark of the cocoa tree so as not to give room to parasitic fungi to infest the tissue of the tree. After harvesting, the pods are opened to remove the beans within a week to 10days after harvesting, the best way of opening the pods is to use a wooden club which allows the pods to break into two equal halves, when it strikes the pod. Various machines have also been developed for opening up cocoa pods.
Cocoa beans are fermented and dried after these and then transported to various places where they are needed for further processing.