Theobroma Cacao, the botanical name for the cocoa tree, literally means "food of the gods" in Greek. This bean or seed from the tree is ground to make cocoa powder and chocolate, making it a product in demand worldwide. But cocoa beans are only grown in select regions on earth. Most commercially produced cocoa comes from the western parts of the African continent with Southeast Asia and Central America producing smaller amounts. A handful of countries control most of the cocoa bean output.
Republic of Cote D'Ivoire
The Ivory Coast is a country on the western shores of Africa that produces more cocoa than any other nation in the world. According to the Spectrum Commodities website, the Ivory Coast produces approximately 43 per cent of the world's cocoa beans.
As recently as October 2010 cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast were hoarding beans because of dissatisfaction with market prices. According to the Bloomberg website, the farmers will often sell off a small portion of beans to raise some money and keep the remaining beans until the prices go up. Accusations of child labour on cocoa farms have caused recent trouble for the Ivory Coast cocoa industry.
Ghana is a West African country where the first cocoa beans outside of Latin America and the Caribbean were planted. Today, Ghana is the second leading producer of cocoa in the world. Ghana produces approximately 14 per cent of the world's cocoa bean crop, according to the Spectrum Commodities website.
Many chocolate factories and confectioneries buy exclusively from Ghana cocoa growers because of the distinct quality and depth of flavour. Much of the Ghanaian cocoa is grown on small, family-owned farms. The farmers are able to sell their beans fresh as the government-run Ghana Cocoa Board transports, roasts and prepares the beans for the world market, according to the Global Gourmet website.
Another West African country that is a major player in the cocoa trade is Nigeria. This country produces about 6 per cent of the world's cocoa bean supply and is the third largest producer globally. According to the MBendi Information Services website, Nigeria produced 242,000 tons of cocoa beans in 2008 alone.
The cocoa business is one of Nigeria's primary employers. A large segment of the Nigerian population makes its living on agriculture, and cocoa is certainly the country's largest crop. The vast majority of the cocoa grown in Nigeria comes from the southwestern portions of the country.