Starting Cocoa Farming in Nigeria

Introduction of cocoa cultivation

Cocoa is also called ‘cacao’ (derives from the Spanish word Cacao) and this is mainly grown for its beans from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted.

Cocoa beans are mainly used in the production of chocolate, cocoa powder and cocoa butter, whereas cocoa butter is also used in the cosmetic industry. cocoa is an important commercial bean crop from the humid tropics. In Nigeria this crop can be grown as mixed crop in suitable regions. ivory coast is the top producer of cocoa beans in the world. Often times cocoa is grown as mixed crop in Areca nut, Coconut and Oil palm plantations.

The Cocoa plant is native to amazon basin and tropical regions of south America and Central America. commercial cultivation of Cocoa beans has always been a huge success due to its demand in the local and international markets. One can expect decent profits in the Cocoa bean farming with proper orchard management practices.he botanical name or scientific name of Cocoa is “Theobroma Cacao.L.”. Cocoa belongs to the genus of “Theobroma“. In Nigeria, Cocoa plantations are usually seen in the states  Cross-river State, Edo State, Ekiti State, Ogun State, Ondo State, Osun State and Oyo State.

The seeds are the main ingredient of chocolate, while the pulp is used in some countries to prepare a refreshing juice

Different products from cocoa

The husks of cocoa pods and the pulp, or sweatings, surrounding the beans and the cocoa bean shells can be used. Some examples of these uses are:

  • Animal feed from cocoa husk,
  • Production of soft drinks and alcohol.

Potash from cocoa pod husk – Cocoa pod husk ash is used mainly for soft soap manufacture. It may also be used as fertilizer for Cocoa, vegetables, and food crops.

Jam and marmalade – Pectin for jam and marmalade is extracted from the sweatings

Once the beans have been fermented and dried, they can be processed to produce a variety of products. These products include:

  1. Cocoa butter– Cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate. It is also widely used in cosmetic products such as moisturizing creams and soaps.
  2. Cocoa powder– Cocoa powder can be used as an ingredient in almost any foodstuff. For example, it is used in chocolate flavored drinks, chocolate flavored desserts such as ice cream and mousse, chocolate spreads and sauces, and cakes and biscuits.
  3. Cocoa liquor– Cocoa liquor is used, with other ingredients, to produce chocolate. Chocolate is used as a product on its own or combined with other ingredients to form confectionery products.

Species of cocoa

There are three distinct groups within the species Theobroma cacao that are cultivated for international market. These are the Criollo, Forastero Amazonian and Trinitario.



Climate Requirement For Cocoa

Cocoa can be grown within a wide range of rainfall from 1000-3000 mm or more per annum. When irrigation is available and the occurrence of dry winds is limited, the crop can be grown completely without rain. Cocoa plants respond well to a relatively high temperature with a maximum annual average of 30-32oC and a minimum average of 18 -21oC.

Soil requirement for Cocoa cultivation

Cocoa trees can be grown on a wide range of soils. Cocoa trees are predominanatly cultivated in red laterite soils. However, these trees prefer well-drained sandy loam soil with pH range of 6.5-7.0- Water retaining soils are best for its optimum growth and yield.

Routine maintenance such as weeding, mulching, pruning, replacement of dead seedlings and regeneration of old cocoa plant are some of the production practices it requires for maximum productivity.

Land Preparation for cultivation

land should be prepared by giving 3 to 4 ploughing until the soil attains fine tilth stage. if the crop is grown on a large scale (commmercially), it is advised to do a soil test. Based on test results, soil should be supplemented with required nutrients. As crop requires well-drainaged soil, the land should be prepared in such a way that the water should be drained quickly.

Propagation methods in cocoa cultivation:

propagation of cocoa is done through Seeds and Vegetative Cuttings.

Seed Propagation

cocoa-seeds (1)

In seed propagation of cocoa, seeds should be treated with ash or lime. cocoa seeds should be sown in polythene bags. these seeds can be raised in nursery beds with required shade. seeds sown soon after extraction. seedlings of 60cm height should be ready for transportation in main fields. for better germination, make sure ti sow the seeds whose pod husk thickness is less than one centimeter and bean (dry) weight is moe than one gram


Vegetative propagation

CocoaSeedling in nursery

Cocoa trees may be propagated by vegetative cutting, budding, grafting. In vegetative propagation; to achieve 90% of rooting, the farmer should use cuttings  3-4 cm long, with leaves 1 or 2 leaves on it treated with IBA and planted in medium or rotten palm fiber and sand in equal part. Generally tree cuttings of 15cm length bearing four terminal leaves should be treated with NNA + IBA dip and planted in polybags, this will result in rooting of 65 to 75% after one month.

Cocoa is a shade loving plant and natural or artificial shade should be created during its seedling period and growing period. Cocoa requires more shade in the initial stages than later stages of growth.

  • In the case where the main crop is coconut and inter-crop is Cocoa: it requires 7.5 meters by 7.5 meters which accommodates 500 cocoa plants per hectare land.
  • In a case where main crop is Arecanut and inter-crop is Cocoa: it requires 2.7 meters by 2.7  meters which accommodates 686 cocoa plants per hectare land.
  • In the case where the main crop is Oil Palm and the inter-crop is Cocoa: it requires 4.5 meters by 4.5 meters which accommodates 400 cocoa plants per hectare land.


Planting material in Cocoa cultivation

Selection of good and healthy planting material is very important in any commercial crop farming. if you are planning to use seedlings, select vigorous and healthy seedlings from genuine/reputed certifies nurseries.

Make sure to select the seedling or budded or grafted plant which is at least 4 to 5 months old. the cocoa seedling or grafted plant or budded plant should be placed at the centre of the pot.

Irrigation in Cocoa cultivation

proper irrigation of cocoa plants ensures health growth and yield. constant moisture should be maintained as cocoa plants are sensitive to drought. Young cocoa plants should be irrigated frequently at an interval of 3 days during hot/dry climatic conditions. it does not require any watering in rainy season. in case of floods and over rains make sure to drain out the water effectively even applying fertilizers through drip is possible for better utilization of fertilizers and controlling weed growth.

Manures and Fertilizers in Cocoa cultivation

Cocoa plants respond well to organic manures and fertilizers. any nutrient/micro-nutrient gaps should be filled during soil/land preparation. On the average, each cocoa plant requires 8-10 kg of well rotten farm yard manure (FYM) along with 100 grams of “N”, 40 grams of “P205” and 140 grams of K20 per year.

these fertilizers should be applied in 2 equal split doses one in Apr-May other in Aug-Sep. Organic Manure should be applied in first year itself. 1/3rd of fertilizers in the first year, 2/3rd in the second year and full doses should be applied from third year.


Pruning in Cocoa Cultivation

Pruning is the process of thinning of branches and removing old or dead stems/branches. this is mandatory in most of the farm management to allow the crop to grow well by allowing direct sunlight. pruning is done to encourage a tree structure or control the height that allows sunlight. Carry out the first pruning after main harvest just before the monsoon. Second pruning should be done 6 months after the first one. Any lower branches and dead branches should be removed. limit the branches 4 to 5 for better sunlight. burn any disease branches after they are removed.


Pest and diseases in cocoa cultivation

in any crop, pest and disease control play a major role for getting quality produce and higher yeilds. the following are the main pests and diseases found in cocoa cultivation.

  • Pests

The following are common pests found in cocoa cultivation:

Mealy bugs, Aphids, Plant hoppers, Caterpillars, Mosquitoes, Cocoa pod borer and stem Girdlers



Cocoa Pod Borer


Pest Control Measures

Sucking insects


Sahlbergella singularis


H. antonii (Java)




Distantiella theobroma


  • The insect pestsMaintain a complete canopy: in young plantings, temporary shading is needed, e.g. with bananas and plantains.
  • Remove chupons regularly: mirids are attracted to the young and soft shoots that cocoa trees grow throughout the season. Chupons that emerge at the base of trees should be removed regularly, not just during the peak mirid season. Do not prune too heavily as this will stress the trees and cause the growth of new chupons, which increase mirid feeding.
  • All cocoa varieties are affected by mirids, but modern ones less so than Amelonado (possibly tolerance to infections of Calonectria rigidiuscula and other mirid transmitted fungi that may cause cocoa dieback). Improved varieties have been offset by changes to the agricultural environment: a trend towards reduced shade encourages mirids.
  • Insecticides are widely used and effective: especially when timed correctly (often early in the season). If possible, only spray those areas in the farm that are attacked by mirids (spot application). Careful and well-timed application can help farmers to save money by using less insecticide, and decrease impact on natural enemies of this pest.
  • In the past, organochlorine insecticides (e.g. lindane, endosulfan) and carbamates(propoxur and promecarb) have been chosen with vapour action and persistence to counteract poor application. Many of these have been, or are in the process of being, withdrawn.
  • Modern, less toxic insecticides, such as neonicatinoids, are now available, but these are expensive and not always available. Pyrethroids can be effective, but they may kill beneficial insects such as pollinators, so these must only be used as little as possible and only where mirids actually occur.

Cocoa pod borer (CPB)
Conopomorpha crammerella

  • Cocoa husks temporarily covered with plastic sheet to prevent CPB hatching (PRIMA, Sulawesi)
    The insect pestRegular complete harvesting of pods is almost certainly the most effective cultural technique.
  • Other cultural techniques include: rampassan (enforcing a break in pod production) and removal/burying/enclosing husks.
  • Historically, chemical control has been most effective with broad spectrum insecticides. These originally included organochlorines (e.g. gamma-HCH or endosulfan) that have now been – or are in the process of being – withdrawn for safety and environmental reasons. Farmers in Sulawesi are left with a choice between oganophosphates (e.g. chlorpyrifos) and pyrethroids (e.g. cypermethrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin) and fipronil (similar mode of action to organochlorines).


  • Maintain a healthy and balanced ecosystem to preserve natural enemies that kill lepidopteran stem borer caterpillars. Use pesticides rationally to keep insect pests in check and to preserve natural enemies of stem borer.
  • Plant a barrier crop that is not attractive to stem borers, such as: Leucaena glauca, cocoyam, sweet potato or Pueraria species. The barrier must be at least 15 m wide and established early for new plantings.
  • It has been suggested that attacks have been caused by heavy pesticide use on trees, which kills off the natural enemies (insecticide resurgence). However, from the 1990s onwards, stem borer has become more noticeable, even on farms where no pesticides are used.

Rodents and other vertebrate pests

  • The vermin Rat traps and nooses are popular, but of little value for lowering populations: a combination of good practices is most likely to be successful. These must be implemented over large areas as rodents reproduce and spread quickly. Whole communities should work together, if possible.
  • Good farm management (weeding, light shade management, timely pruning, etc.) is important.
  • Barn owls are probably the most proven biological controls for rodents. When barn owl nest boxes were established in cocoa plantations in Malaysia, rat damage was significantly reduced. Recently a control product has been brought out based on the pathogen Sarcocystis singaporensis
  • When rodents attack more than 4 out of 100 cocoa pods, farmers may want to think about chemical control. Rodents can be baited and killed with poisoned wax blocks (containing the anti-coagulants: brodifacoum, bromadiolone or warfarin), tied high up on trees to help avoid poisoning of children and farm animals. Baiting with anti-coagulant rodenticides is most likely to work when farmers co-operate and treat as large an area as possible at the same time – best in the low season when rodents are most hungry. Another problem is that rats adapt and learn quickly not to eat the poison (bait shyness).



At least 6 different species of Mistletoe have been found on West African cocoa. One species Tapinanthus bangwensis accounts for about 70% of infestations in Ghana and is recognised by its red flowers and berries: it flowers twice a year and can live for up to 18 years.  Regular removal of mistletoe is essential for good crop management and in healthy cocoa crops, misletoes are not able to become established; large populations can be considered a sign of farm neglect.  Mistletoe may also provide a suitable habitat for ants (Crematogaster sp.) which cultivate the mealybugs vectors of CSSVD.


  • Diseases

The following are the common diseases found in cocoa cultivation:

The black pod disease:


It’s the most serious disease of cocoa in West Africa, especially in Nigeria. It is caused by a fungus Phytophthora megakarya.

Other diseases are Cocoa Swllen Shoot, Seedling Blight, Witches broom, Black Pod, Frosty Pod, Stem Canker and wilt.

Disease control measures

Insect-borne viruses:

Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD)


  • The diseases and vectorsRemove diseased trees as well as their neighbouring cocoa trees (that might look healthy, but are expected to be infected with the virus). This works for small outbreaks. When more than 100 trees in any one area are diseased, adjacent cocoa trees up to 15 m away with disease symptoms should be removed.
  • Alternative methods include using resistant cocoa trees when replanting cocoa. Check with your local cocoa research institute and find out about resistant varieties.
  • When establishing new cocoa farms, where possible, plant trees away from known CSSV areas. Use natural barriers, such as are oil palm, coffee and citrus to prevent or slow-down the spread of the mealy bugs within cocoa farms.
  • Use of systemic organophosphate insecticides was tested to control mealy bugs was hazardous and had little effect; insecticides are not currently recommended.
    To top


Vascular streak die-back (VSD):
Oncobasidium theobromae


  • The diseaseThere is some scope for host plant resistance – refer to your local breeding programme.
  • Protection of seedlings is especially crucial.
    When symptoms are found at an early stage in more mature trees, hard pruning well beyond the infected parts of a branch and destruction (preferably burning) of removed plant material may be effective.
  • Fungicides are probably not cost effective for wide-scale spraying of mature trees, and are used mostly for protecting seedlings, using triazole compounds such as tebuconazole, triadimefon and triadimenol.

Root diseases (causing tree death)


  • The diseasesWhen trees become infected with diseases such as Ceratocystis, and especially when Xyleborusbeetle holes (indicated by arrow: note frass below) are found, the most effective course of action is to uproot trees and burn infected plant material. No cocoa varieties have yet been found that are tolerant to Roslinia spp.
  • Short of this, dispose of infected branches before beetles appear and before the fungus has a chance to sporulate on the cut ends of branches and stumps. Wound treatments with tree paints or protectant fungicide pastes on uninfected trees may also help control the disease.

Harvest and Thrashing in Cocoa Cultivation

Cocoa trees start flowering from third year of sowing/planting. Actual economic yeild starts from the fifth year. It takes cocoa pods from 150 – 180 days, depending on variety, from pollination to pod ripening.   Usually cocoa produces two main crops in a year. Usually one can judge the maturity of pods by colour change. Generally green pods turn to yellow when mature. make sure to harvest at regular intervals of 10-12 days.

Harvesting for harvesting the pod include:

  1.       Sharp cutlass for plucking pods within reach
  2.       Harvesting knife with short handle for harvesting pods well above the ground.
  3.       Harvesting knife attached to a long pole for harvesting pods from topmost part of cocoa.

Do not allow pods to be over ripened. the pods are opened hitting on a hard surface or using a mallet.




Post-Harvest in Cocoa Cultivation

Once harvesting is done, pod fermentation should be carried out. Afterwards pod breaking should take place; in this you may get 30 to 35 wet cocoa beans per pod. these beans should go through fermentation and drying. dried cocoa beans should be graded, packed and stored.



Cocoa Seed drying and picking


Yield in Cocoa Cultivation

Yield of Cocoa crop depends on many factors like variety/cultivar, soil type, plant age, and other farm management practices. On an average  50 to 60 pods/tree/year can be expected. the yield would be in vegetative propagation when compared to seed propagation method. In seed propagation crop, 200 kg/ha dried bran and in vegetative crop, 500 to 800 kg/ha dried bean can be obtained


Constraints in Cocoa Cultivation

The production increase relied for a long time on an expansion of the planted areas. Limited forest availability imposes to promote intensified cocoa cultivation whilst maintaining the current areas. Thus, the competitiveness of cocoa cultivation becomes a decisive factor to stabilize the areas planted when cocoa is in competition with other crops. Villalobos (1989) also identified some of these factors as: low yield, inconsistent production pattern, disease incidence, pest attack and use of simple farm tools.

The main challenges faced by the cocoa sector are the following:

  • Improving production sustainability through adapted varieties and cost-effective crop management, including replanting;
  • Limiting parasite pressure, a main limiting factor for cocoa production;
  • Structuring the commodity chain, from a socio-economic point of view, especially in a context of liberalization which leads to State withdrawal and greater involvement of private companies, and
  • Controlling quality to meet more diversified customer requirements

In addition, Oduwole (2004) in his study identified aging cocoa farms as one of the factors responsible for the decline in cocoa production in south western Nigeria. Many farms were over 40 years old and such farms constitute as much as 60% of the cocoa farms in Nigeria.


Economic importance

At present, the production capacity of cocoa in Nigeria has reached about 385, 000 metric tons per annum, an increase of 215, 000 metric tons from year 2000 production level. This disposition places Nigeria as the fourth highest cocoa producing nation in the world after Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Ghana (Erelu, 2008). By implication, Nigeria competes favorably with other frontline producing nations in supplying the world market.

The demand for cocoa can only be sustained with a proportionate increase in the establishment of more plantations to increase productions to match the demand for this commodity worldwide.

Important General information


Cocoa was the most important agricultural export crop in Nigeria during the 1950s and 1960s. The period was described as decades of glory for cocoa as it was the most important foreign exchange earner for Nigeria. Production peaked at 400,000 metric tons in 1970. However, the oil boom of the 1970s resulted in the ‘dutch disease’ expressed in the neglect of the agricultural economy while focusing on oil which became almost the sole foreign exchange earner.

Currently, land area under Cocoa cultivation in Nigerian is estimated at 650,000 ha; with production of 250,000 metric tonnes per annum. Ondo state, is the biggest producer, with 77,000 tons per annum.

Cocoa is widely cultivated in the southern belt of Nigeria owing to the soil and climatic condition prevailing in the area. This include: Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Taraba. In terms of capacity, Ondo State is rated as the largest cocoa producing state in Nigeria (Oluyole, 2005).

Because of its importance, the recent Federal Government’s concern of diversifying the export base of the nation has placed cocoa in the Centre-stage as the most important export tree crop. Evidence has however shown that the growth rate of cocoa production has been declining, which has given rise to a fall in the fortunes of the subsector among other reasons. Folayan, (2006), note that cocoa production in Nigeria witnessed a downward trend after 1971 season, when its export declined to 216,000 metric tons in 1976, and 150,000 metric tons in 1986.

Nigeria is ranked fourth highest cocoa producing nation in the world after Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Ghana (Erelu, 2008).


This depends on the use to which it is meant for. However in West Africa, the cocoa beans are marketed dry. After harvesting, the pods are opened by knocking against blunt object to avoid damage to the beans. These are set out for fermentation and drying.

The beans are fermented and the water content reduced from approximately 60% to 6 – 7%, in order to block the enzymatic reactions and to enable the product to be stored safely, free from pest and diseases.

Nigeria is not yet maximizing its income from cocoa production, as most of the beans are sold unprocessed. According to Salami (2000), there have been a total of seventeen cocoa processing companies in some parts of the cocoa producing states of Nigeria between 1964 and 2006; however, only seven of them were functional. “The rest have either not been completed, closed down or did not come on board at all. The processing companies have many problems such as inadequate working capital, irregular power supply, high cost of cocoa beans, inefficient and sometimes obstructive government policies.”

Cocoa Processors Association of Nigeria (CPAN) has been clamoring for the ban on exportation of unprocessed Cocoa bean to encourage the processing locally. There was an attempt by the Nigerian government to ban export of cocoa beans in 1990 to promote local industrialization, increase foreign exchange earnings, and facilitate technology transfer. However, the ban was short-lived because of policy failure and pressure from stakeholders, especially Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), which stressed that local industrial processing capacity was inadequate for handling the national cocoa beans output (Olomola et al, 1993; Ojo, 2005).

Improved varieties

The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) has intensified efforts at increasing cocoa production in the country with the introduction of eight new varieties of cocoa to Nigerian farmers. These varieties had the capacity to transform the cocoa industry in the sense that currently, the yield in the Nigerian farms is 450 kg per hectare but this new hybrid varieties has potential of one to two tonnes per hectare.

The Federal government in line with the transformation agenda to maximize the Cocoa industry by doubling the production figure to 500,000MT by 2015; distributed improved varieties to farmers to replace aging and enhance establishment of new ones. The yield from this hybrid when fully adopted will increase farm yield and increase revenue for the individual and the country.



  • Culled from: Wikipedia
  • Culled from: International cocoa organisation
  • Villalobos, V.M. (1989) Advances in Tissue Culture Methods Applied to Coffee and Cocoa Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries. United Kingdom. CTA/FAO, Chayce Publication Services.
  • Curtsey: Hubert OMONT – IPGRI – Commodity Chains
  • Oduwole, O.O. (2004) Adoption of Improved Agronomic Practices by Cocoa Farmers in Nigeria: A Multivariate Tobit Analysis. Thesis (Unpublished). Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria
  • Erelu, O.O. (2008) Cocoa for Health and Wealth. A Paper presented in a Fourth Cocoa Day
  • Celebration in Osun State between 22nd – 24th April.
  • Curtsey:
  • Curtsey:
  • Curtsey:
  • Oluyole, K.A. (2005).Evaluation of the Economics of Post Harvest Processing of Cocoa in Cross River State, Nigeria. Journal of Agriculture, Forestry and the Social Sciences. 3 (2): 58-64.
  • Nkang NM, Abang SO, Akpan OE and KJ Offem Cointegration and Error Correction Modelling of Agricultural Export Trade in Nigeria: The case of Cocoa. Journal of Agriculture and Social Sciences; 2006; 2(4): 249-255.
  • Folayan JA, Daramola GA and AE Oguntade Structure and Performance Evaluation of Cocoa Marketing Institutions in South-Western Nigeria: An Economic Analysis. Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment. 2006; 4(2): 123-128.
  • Erelu, O.O. (2008) Cocoa for Health and Wealth. A Paper presented in a Fourth Cocoa Day
  • Celebration in Osun State between 22nd – 24th April.
  • Olomola, Ade, A.C. Nwosu, B.A. Oni, S.O. Akande and B.O. Akanji (1993). Prospects
  • for Increased Value-added in Nigeria Cocoa Exports, NISER Monograph Series No.3,1993.
  • Culled from  Nigerian Tribune
  • ICCO, Quarterly Bulletin of Cocoa Statistics



All data and information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Altimfreeman Inv. makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information in this Site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.








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