Ghana plays a big role in the world of cocoa, as they’re the second largest producer in the world. Cocoa in Ghana has an interesting background, and in this article you’ll find out all about the man who brought cocoa to Ghana.

Who doesn’t love cocoa?

Chocolate drinks, bars, candy and other assorted cocoa products have become a staple in the lives of millions of people all over the globe (from breakfast to supper). Companies like Cadbury, Nestle, and Belvas spend millions of dollars in acquiring and processing cocoa into products for public consumption.

However, with all these brands making a name for themselves on the market, it is evident that not many people know about the significant contributions and products that Ghana makes in terms of global cocoa production. Currently, Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa in the world (Ivory Coast takes first place).

Cocoa, the number one cash crop of the country, is cultivated in the Eastern, Ashanti, Bono-Ahafo, Western North and South regions. Ghana’s journey from an adopter of cocoa seeds to becoming the second largest global exporter of the cash crop is one of perseverance.

Cocoa reels in an estimated 2 billion dollars in foreign exchange annually and is one of the main driving forces behind Ghana’s growing G.D.P (Gross Domestic Product). Research carried out in 2019 showed that an estimated number of 850,000 farm families partake in the growing and production of the cash crop in Ghana as compared to the other crops in the country.

The man who brought cocoa to Ghana

Cocoa beans were commercially introduced into the country by a man named Tetteh Quarshie in 1879 after he had returned from his years-long stay from Fernando Po (presently known as the Equatorial Guinea). On his return, Tetteh Quarshie purchased a parcel of land at Akuapim Mampong in the Eastern region which he proceeded to convert to a cocoa farm.

It was the first of its kind in the country. His first seedlings died but after persevering for a while the seedlings he cultivated later became successful and led to a bumper harvest. When the other farmers recognized the growing riches Tetteh Quarshie started reaping from his cocoa farms, they procured seedlings from him. Gradually, cocoa farms started spreading into other parts of the country.

Harvesting and production

Cocoa beans are harvested from cocoa pods from the branch and trunks of the cocoa tree. Ripe pods are harvested using a scythe placed at the end of a long pole. The harvested pod is then cleanly cut open with a sharpened machete to remove the wet beans. After extraction from the pod, the beans undergo a fermentation process which allows the flavour and colour to develop. The length of fermentation varies depending on the bean type, Forastero beans require about 5 days and Criollo beans 2-3 days.

The process begins with the growth of micro-organisms. In particular, yeasts grow on the pulp surrounding the beans. Insects, such as the Drosophila melanogaster or vinegar-fly, are probably responsible for the transfer of micro-organisms to the heaps of beans. The yeasts convert the sugars in the pulp surrounding the beans to ethanol. Bacteria then start to oxidize the ethanol to acetic acid and then to carbon dioxide and water, producing more heat and raising the temperature. The pulp starts to break down and drain away during the second day.

The temperature is raised to 40ºC – 45ºC during the first 48 hours of fermentation. In the remaining days, bacterial activity continues under increasing aeration conditions, as the pulp drains away and the temperature is maintained. The process of turning or mixing the beans increases aeration and consequently bacterial activity. The acetic acid and high temperatures kill the cocoa bean by the second day. The death of the bean causes cell walls to break down and previously segregated substances to mix. This allows complex chemical changes to take place in the bean such as enzyme activity, oxidation and the breakdown of proteins into amino acids.

After fermentation, farmers proceed to dry the beans in order to reduce the moisture content from about 60% to about 7.5%. There are two methods for drying beans – sun drying and artificial drying using wood and fuel dryers. Drying must be carried out carefully to ensure that off-flavours are not developed.

Drying should take place slowly. If the beans are dried too quickly some of the chemical reactions started in the fermentation process are not allowed to complete their work and the beans are acidic, with a bitter flavour. However, if the drying is too slow, moulds and off-flavours can develop. Various research studies indicate that bean temperatures during drying should not exceed 65 degrees Celsius. This attention to detail gives cocoa a lot of value and the work justifies the reward.

Health benefits

Cocoa products have varying nutritional and health benefits. For instance, cocoa powder is rich in theobromine which protects you from diseases such heart disease, stroke, diabetes and improves brain functions. Other nutritional benefits extend to healthy weight gain, healthy teeth. Body creams which contain cocoa keep your skin glowing and healthy by protecting it from myriad skin infections. Cocoa contains antioxidants which are proven to prevent certain types of cancers and disorders from occurring.

The Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod)

The Ghana Cocoa Board was established in 1947 to encourage and facilitate the production and marketing of good and quality cocoa in all forms through the most cost effective and efficient manner. The board creates and supervises all programmes leading to the production of cocoa in Ghana. It is also the only body mandated by law that can procure cocoa from local farmers, which it markets, processes and exports.

Cocoa exportation

Cocoa exportation in Ghana is a major contributor to the development of the country’s economy. With funds from its production used to support infrastructural developments in the country. This cash crop accounts for 30% of the total export earnings and provides income for about 6 million people in Ghana. Cocoa exports from Ghana are made up of 5 products which are classified under: raw, semi-processed and processed products.

Ghana exports cocoa beans, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, cocoa paste and cocoa husks (shell). In 2019, made in excess of 1.61 billion dollars only from the exportation of cocoa beans. This makes Ghana the second largest exporter of the cash crop behind Ivory Coast. Ghana exports to countries like Netherlands, Malaysia, United States, Belgium, France and China amongst others.