Annual cocoa production is 3.6 million tonnes, most of it grown on small family-run farms by 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers worldwide.
From farm to collection center
In Ivory Coast, some 1 million cocoa farmers produce about 1 tonne of cocoa beans per farm per year. The main crop is harvested from October to March. A smaller mid-crop is harvested from May to August.
Cocoa farming is labor intensive and practices have not changed much over the decades. Farmers cut open the ripe cocoa pods using long knives or clubs and scrape out the fruit pulp. The pulp contains about 40 seeds, or cocoa beans. The beans are heaped on banana or palm leaves and covered. They are left to ferment for 5 to 7 days. After fermentation, the beans are spread out and left to dry in the sun for 6 to 7 days. They lose most of their moisture content and more than half their weight. The drying step is essential to stop the fermentation process.
When the beans are dry, the farmers pack them in jute sacks and bring them to a local collection center run by the QPP cooperative to which they belong. Or, the cooperative may organize representatives to collect the cocoa from member farms and transport it to the collection centers.
The collection centers are managed and run by the cooperative. Here the farmer’s cocoa is checked to ensure quality. The beans are assigned a quality code and weighed. The information is recorded to ensure that the cooperative has a complete record of how much cocoa was delivered from each farmer member, so that proper payment is made. Traceability to the farmers at this point is assured.