How To Start Cocoa Farming In Nigeria Or Africa: Complete Guide

How To Start Cocoa Farming In Nigeria Or Africa: Complete Guide | Image Source: Pixabay

Cocoa farming in Nigeria is one of the most profitable businesses for entrepreneurs looking to invest in agriculture in Nigeria. It provides a large harvest without demanding too much effort or much-mechanized equipment and has a very wide global market on standby to purchase.

According to the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigeria ranks fourth behind Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia. With Ghana, Nigeria, and Cote D’Ivoire supplying more than two -thirds of the world’s cocoa.

A significant benefit of cocoa farming is that it requires only one single substantial investment. This is because to start a cocoa plantation, you need to plant the trees just once, and all you do afterwards is to harvest every year, with an average cocoa tree surviving for about 45 years yielding consistently.

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What Is Cocoa?

Cocoa is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa powder (a mixture of nonfat substances), and cocoa butter (the fat) can be extracted. 


What Is Cocoa Farming?

Cocoa farming is the cultivation of the cocoa seed and the final yearly harvests of the cocoa tree.

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Business Opportunities In Cocoa Farming Around The World

1). Production Of Animal feed: 

The dried cocoa pod husk is used as an animal feed in Nigeria, Africa, and many other parts of the world.

2). Production Of 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.

3). Production Of Cocoa Powder:

Cocoa powder is used in many food recipes such as; chocolate flavoured drinks, chocolate flavoured desserts, chocolate spreads and sauces, and cakes and biscuits.

4). Production Of Soft Drinks And Alcohol:

Fresh cocoa pulp juice is used in the production of chocolate drinks. This fresh pulp juice can be fermented and used to produce alcoholic beverages.

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Facts And Benefits Of Cocoa 

  • Cocoa is an essential ingredient for chocolates
  • 70% of the world’s cocoa beans come from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon
  • Ivory Coast and Ghana are by far the two largest producers of cocoa
  • Worldwide, 90% of cocoa is grown on small family farms of 2 to 5 hectares, while just 5% comes from large plantations of 40 hectares or more.
  • Cocoa production provides a means of livelihood for between 40 and 50 million farmers, rural workers and their families in major cocoa-producing nations
  • Cocoa trees need to be planted next to tall trees in order to protect them from direct sunlight. This is why cocoa trees are planted amongst mango and papaya trees.
  • It takes 3 to 5 years before the cocoa trees bear fruit. Each Tree produces around 1,000 beans a year.
  • Every stage of cocoa production is done by hand: planting, irrigating, harvesting, fermenting and drying
  • The first chocolate bar was made in 1848
  • Cocoa helps normalize blood pressure
  • Cocoa helps to improve brain health and brain capability
  • Cocoa helps improve cardiovascular health
  • Cocoa helps regulate blood sugar
  • Cocoa butter helps skin healing and moisturizing.
  • Cocoa farming is a great source of employment
  • You can earn anywhere from 20% to sometimes over 100% profit margins, trading rubber locally and internationally

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Types Of Cocoa

The three main varieties of cocoa plants are Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario.

1). Criollo (The Rare Bean):

  • The Criollo beans are the finest and rarest form of cocoa beans.
  • They are not bitter and they have a rich taste.
  • The Criollo pods are usually red or purple. The colour of the beans ranges from white to pale pink.
  • The Criollo cocoa is mostly grown in Central & Southern America, the Caribbean islands & Sri Lanka.

2). The Forastero bean:

  • They are commonly referred to as bulk cocoa. They are the most produced cocoa variety in the world, which makes up about 80 – 85% of the world’s total cocoa produce.
  • They are naturally bitter and don’t have a rich taste.  
  • When freshly cut open, the colour of the beans is purple and that of the pod is yellow.
  • They are produced in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, New Guinea, Brazil, Malaysia & Indonesia.

3). The Trinitario Beans:

  • They are hybrid cocoa produced from the cross-pollination of Criollo and Forastero beans.
  • Trinitario beans have the robustness & high yield of Forastero beans along with the sublime taste of Criollo beans. 
  • They account for 10% – 13% of global cocoa production.
  • The colour of Trinitario pods varies in shape & colour as it is a hybrid. The beans are white to creamy in colour.
  • Trinitario has the strength of a Forastero bean to fight against diseases and the taste of a Criollo bean.
  • They are also found in the Caribbean islands, Venezuela and Colombia and also in some parts of South-East Asia.

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How To Start Cocoa Farming In Nigeria: Step By Step Guide

1). Select Suitable Land:

Cocoa needs soil rich in nutrients, to a depth of 1.5m to allow the development of a good root system. The cocoa tree doesn’t grow well in waterlogged land and is sensitive to a lack of water, so the soil must have both water retention properties and good drainage.

2). Select Suitable Cocoa Varieties:

From the various varieties of cocoa plants, choose the most suitable seeds that you have a ready market for, you have the right conditions for cultivation, and would give you a reasonable yield.

Cocoa Breeding

There are three basic methods of cocoa breeding;

a). Cutting – Tree cuttings are taken between two and five leaves and one or two buds. The leaves are cut in half and cutting placed in a pot under polyethene until roots begin to grow.

b). Budding – A bud is cut from a tree and placed under a flap of bark on another tree. The budding patch is then bound with raffia and waxed tape of clear plastic to prevent moisture loss. When the bud is growing, the old tree above it is cut off.

c). Marcotting – A strip of bark is removed from a branch and the area covered in sawdust and a polyethene sheet. The area will produce roots and the branch can then be chopped off and planted.

3). Harvesting Of Cocoa:

Pods containing cocoa beans grow from the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree. Harvesting involves removing ripe pods from the trees and opening them to extract the wet beans.

Pods are suitable for harvest for 3 to 4 weeks, after which time the beans begin to germinate. It is, therefore, necessary to harvest at regular intervals as the pods do not all ripen at the same time. The frequency of harvesting can have an effect on yield.

During harvesting, it is important to not damage the flower cushion which will produce the flowers and fruits of subsequent harvests, and care must be taken not to damage the tree, which would make it easy for parasitic fungi to penetrate the tissues of the tree.


Challenges Of Cocoa Farming in Nigeria

  • Poor funding of research activities
  • Pest and diseases
  • Bush burning
  • It is a seasonal business as the cashew nuts are only gathered during a season once a year. So production cannot happen all year round.
  • Lack of highly efficient storage facilities for the unprocessed nuts
  • Lack of capital for large scale production
  • Lack of easy access to the international market by most cashew nuts farmers in Nigeria
  • Instability of the international market price of Cashew Nuts
  • Lack of adequate government assistance
  • Lack of adequate widespread knowledge on how to produce high-quality Cashew Nuts In Nigeria
  • Lack of funds to import international standard Cashew Nuts processing machinery into Nigeria
  • Thieves and criminals

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To Sum It Up

Cocoa farming in Nigeria presents one of the best business opportunities in the Agribusiness industry. The demand for cocoa seeds worldwide and its vast uses is extremely high, and the price in the international market is quite encouraging to farmers. You already know what cocoa is used for, and its uses are innumerably making it almost impossible for demand to drop.

You plant cocoa trees once and harvest it throughout your lifetime and still pass it to the next generation.

If you’re looking for an agribusiness to start up, cocoa farming is one of the most lucrative farming businesses for entrepreneurs to start.


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