Cocoa is Ghana’s most important cash crop, accounting for around 25 percent of the country’s overall foreign exchange revenues each year. For many people, farming is a way to make money and live in the countryside.
Cocoa cultivation takes place in the country’s wooded areas, which include the Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Central Region, Eastern Region, Western Region, and Volta regions, where annual rainfall ranges between 1,000 and 1,500 millimeters.
The crop year begins in October, when the first purchases of the major crop are made, with a smaller mid-crop cycle commencing in July when the second purchases of the main crop are made.
All cocoa, with the exception of that which is smuggled out of the country, is sold to the Cocoa Marketing Board at predetermined rates. The majority of cocoa production is carried out by peasant farmers on land that is less than three hectares in size, yet a tiny number of farmers appear to control the majority of the trade. According to certain research, around one-fourth of all cocoa growers receive slightly more than half of the overall cocoa revenue.
For those who intend to go into cocoa farming as a full-time job, or as a side hustle, this post was specially created to provide a step-by-step guide on how to produce cocoa in Ghana.
Getting Started with Cocoa Farming in Ghana
When developing a cocoa plantation, there are several variables to consider.
Site selection and seed
It should go without saying that one of the first tasks in establishing a cocoa farm is to select a large tract of land on which to plant the crop. To be successful, the farmer must find a broad stretch of suitable land that has the proper climatic conditions and receives a consistent supply of rain.
In order to grow cocoa beans, the farmer will need to invest in high-yielding, high-quality beans that are disease-resistant and of excellent quality.
Cocoa farming can only be carried out in certain climates and under certain conditions. Cocoa plants do not tolerate much sunlight, and their native environment is found beneath the dense canopy of the rainforest. That is one of the reasons why you should avoid establishing a cocoa farm in Ghana’s northern region.
Cocoa farming would only be successful in southern, eastern, and western Ghana, which have a lot of rain but little sunlight.
As long as cocoa is being grown commercially, the farmer must ensure that the climate conditions are replicated by putting the trees beneath the shade of other crops such as oil palms, rubber, bananas, mangoes, and orange trees, as well as coconut palms. This will guarantee that the cocoa pods are not exposed to the direct heat of the sun while growing.
In order for the trees to grow, they need a constant environment with temperatures that range from 21 to 32 degrees Celsius year-round and rain that falls from 100 to 300 cm per year, evenly spread across the year.
The cocoa tree thrives exclusively in precise soil conditions, just as it does in specific climate circumstances. The trees demand soil that is deep, somewhat acidic, and wet. Plants need soil that is rich in coarse particles and has a depth of about 1.5 meters. This will help the plant build a strong root system that will help it grow.
Soil drainage is essential for cacao production because, while cocoa may resist waterlogging for short periods of time, it will have a negative impact on the crop over the medium and long term. This type of soil must not only be well-drained, but it must also be capable of retaining water, as the cocoa tree is susceptible to water scarcity or drought as well.
An optimal nitrogen/phosphorus ratio of roughly 1.5 should be present in the soil, as well as specific anionic and cationic balances. Also, the soil should have a lot of organic matter and be in the right anionic and cationic balances.
In order to start a cocoa plantation, the investor will also need to own a storage and drying facility. The majority of cocoa farmers possess warehouses to provide the necessary protection for their cocoa seeds, and this storage facility must have an adequate outside area to scatter and dry the seeds. The seeds must be dried in the sun before they can be used, and the drying process normally takes about two weeks.
Scales for weighing, heavy-duty and standard-sized sacks, and water-resistant material for drying the seeds in the open air are all additional pieces of equipment that are required.
Cocoa varieties in Ghana
In general, there are two cocoa populations: the Criollo and the Forastero, who are both indigenous to the Americas. Trinitario, a cross between the other two populations, is regarded as the third population.
The Forastero group includes the variety that was planted in Ghana. It was initially introduced in 1815 and 1843, respectively, by the Dutch and the Swiss, but it did not endure. Later, in 1879, a Ghanaian named Tetteh Quarshie was able to start a cocoa farm. By 1890, the farm had grown to more than 300 trees.
Cocoa Plantation and Breeding
Breeding a cocoa tree may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Seeding is the most commonly employed technique.
In this procedure, the cocoa tree is largely produced from seeds, which is the first step in growing the crop.
Beans are harvested from their pods within 15 days of harvesting and planted in accordance with the soil and climatic parameters that are necessary. The majority of the time, such seeds germinate and create healthy plants.
Other methods of breeding cocoa
Blossoming: A bud is taken from a grown, favored tree and placed under a flap of bark from another tree, which is known as “blossoming.” In order to avoid moisture loss, raffia and waxed tape made of clear plastic are used to bind the package. When the bud begins to grow, the old tree above it may be chopped down and disposed of as a waste product.
Cutting: In this approach, the farmer obtains tree cuttings with an average of three to four leaves and one or two buds, depending on the kind of tree. After that, the leaves are sliced in half and the cutting is placed in a container beneath polythene until the roots begin to grow naturally. Once it has begun to grow, it is moved to a farm environment.
In this step, the farmer cuts a strip of bark from the branch and spreads it over the area, which is then covered with sawdust and polythene covering. After that, the region will sprout roots, and the branch may be clipped off and replanted in the farmyard or garden.
Planting and maturation of cocoa beans
In most places, cocoa nursery work is done from October to January, and field transplanting usually takes place from April to June in most places.
Typically, it takes between three and five years after the planting of cocoa seeds until the first crop is harvested. Cocoa hybrid cultivars, on the other hand, may produce crops in as little as two to three years.
In the recent past, specialists in Ghana began working on the development of an early-maturing, high-yielding, disease-resistant bean variety that would help the country’s production more than double.