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Cocoa Farming Guide| How To Start a Cocoa Farm

Cocoa is one of the most profitable cash crops in Africa and other parts of the world. It.s the crop that has helped to improve on the standard of living of Farmers in Africa and other parts of the world.

Once your Cocao Farm starts producing Cocao pods (after 4 years of hardwork), you eventually becomes a rich man and a rich man forever (provided that you continue working hard on your Cocao Farm).

You plant cocoa trees once and harvest it throughout your lifetime and still pass it to the generation next or even sell off your Cocoa farm for millions when you can no longer work on your Cocoa Farm.

So if you are planning to start your own Cocao farm, you don,t need to doubt the profitability of Cocao farming or waste too much time in feasibility study. Its already proven world wide that Cocoa farming is  a very lucrative Agribusiness and will continue to be profitable as the demand for Cocao bean in world market keep increasing every year. Please take note that i,m not telling you this as an outsider.I,m also a Cocao farmer. Who will see a gold mine and instead tell other people to go and exploit it?.

If you are really serious about starting a Cocoa farm, this cocao farming guide will enable you to do that.

Enough of all this talking, let,s get down to business.

THINGS YOU NEED BEFORE YOU CAN VENTURE INTO COCOA FARMING.

 1. Skills and Attitude.

Just like any other job or business, you will need Cocao Farming Skills and Attitude in order to successfully manage your Cocao farm. If you lack the essential skills and Attitudes mentioned below and don,t have any plan to learn in order to acquire the necessary skills and also don,t have any intention of hiring somebody or people with the essential skills and attitude to run your Cocao farm,i will advice you to invest your money, time and effort somewhere else. Cocoa business is not for you.

These are the necessary attitude;

Patient; It takes 5 years maximum for a Cocoa plant to mature.

Hardwork; Cocoa farming requires alot of hardwork especially during the first 2 years. Nothing good comes easy.

Creativity; Just like in any business, the creative people always excel. Constantly look for ways to solve problems.

Willingness to Learn; You will need to learn from the Cocoa farmers already in the business.

The necessary Cocoa farming skills include4

1. Ability to detect Cocoa Tree Diseases

2. Ability to use Fertiliers, Pesticides and Herbicides

3. Clearing and Prunning skills

If you are reading this,then its very obvious that you lack the first and second skill. If you are willing to learn ( which is one of the essential attitude), you can acquire those skills within a month(through internship or employment at a Cocoa farm). Thats how i also acquired those skills.

2. You will need capital to start a Cocoa Farm.

You will need money for the following purpose…

  • To buy or rent the land you will use for your Cocoa Farm.

One thing that often hinder so many people from getting involved in Agricbusiness is the unavailability of farmland. Most would-be Cocoa farmers often ask the question; Where do i get money to buy a land?.

Listen!cocoa farmlands are not too expensive. Most Cocoa farms in Africa are located in the forest;where lands are very cheap or even free.With just a little amount of money you can buy a very large expanse of forest land for Cocoa cultivation. So securing a land for your Cocoa farm is nothing to worry about. The largest cost element in both establishing and maintaining a Cocoa farm is the labour.

Important advice.

Before buying or renting a land, its very important that you carry out a little research to determine whether the climate of the locality i.e. the average rainfall per millimeter, temperature, humidity, and also type of soil is favourable for Cocoa Cultivation.

The land must be carefully chosen so as to provide the best soil and climate for the cocoa trees. If there are many Cocoa farmers in the locality, then its a sign that the area is suitable for Cocoa cultivation. Apart from that, its very adviceable that you buy a land closer to where other Cocoa farmers are, in order to learn from them.

Conditions necessary for Cocoa cultivation.

The climate must be warm, with a consistent temperature of 25-27°C (77-81°F). The tree cannot withstand extremely dry or wet periods. Rainfall should ideally be regular and between 1250 and 2500 mm per year. The tree is also highly sensitive to strong winds and direct sunlight. For this reason, it grows best under the shade and protection of other, tall-growing plants and trees. The cocoa tree prefers soil that’s fertile, slightly acidic and well drained, but also capable of storing some water to fall back on in drier times. The land you intend to use for your cocoa farming must be covered by rain forest canopy.Under the forest canopy is the ideal place to plant cocoa.

  • The cost of Labour

The largest cost element in both establishing and maintaining a plantation is the labour. Farm sizes vary and therefore labour costs vary, with many smallholders working the land themselves rather than hiring labourers. So the costs for a large Cocoa farm will be higher than for a smallholder.

The costs involved here include

  • Preparation of the Cocoa Farm. You will need to hire people to clear the land.
  • Purchasing of Cocoa seeds for planting.
  • Planting cocoa trees and building shades,
  • Weeding, fertiliser and pesticide applications and constructing the required infrastructure such as roads, irrigation ditches, nursery and processing facilities.

After your Cocoa farm is 2 yrs old, you will also need to hire workers for maintaining the plantation. These costs involve pruning, weeding, fertiliser and pesticide applications. During the harvesting and post harvest processing.

Like i said before, you will only need workers if the size your Cocoa farm is too large. Some Cocoa farmers with very small Cocoa farms in Africa do majority of the work by themselves (with assistance from their children). So Evaluate yourself to determine if you will be able to cope without workers.

Let,s assume you have already secured a land. The next step is…..

Land Preparation.

In Africa; where Cocoa is grown in forest regions.
To make a Cocoa farm (plantation), you must clear the site and when clearing the site, do not cut down all the forest trees. Just cut the tall weeds, the creepers and the small trees and leave few of the forest trees. Like i told you before, a Cocoa tree grows well under a canopy and not under direct sunlight. The big trees will naturally provide this canopy. Cocoa tree needs shade, especially when it is young. It,s Is better to keep a few of the forest trees and avoid the stress of planting shade later. Cocoa farmers who cultivate Cocoa in a non forest region, often plant canopies like banana trees or taros into the cocoa plantation, to give shade for the young cocoa trees. If these are planted long enough before the cocoa trees, they give good protection.But if they are planted at the same time as the cocoa trees, they do not protect the young cocoa trees well enough and they take nourishment out of the soil. Please Read more about Land Preparation.

Ok the next things you will need to do after you have successfully prepared your land include….

  • Buying of Cocoa seedlings and
  • Planting the Cocoa Seedlings.

where to buy the Cocoa bean seedlings and how to plant Cocoa seeds.

The Best Cocoa Bean seed or seedling in the World.

There are 3 varieties (types) of Cocao (Theobroma cacao) which include;Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario.

The most popular of the three varieties is Forastero. It is the type that’s cultivated by most farmers in Africa and other parts of the world. However nowadays, most new Cocoa farmers are getting involve with the cultivation of a new Cocoa hybrid.

After many years of research the agricultural scientist recently came up with a new Cocoa hybrid;which is now popular cultivated world wide.

The new cocoa hybrid is an improvement on the old variety (the Forastero type).

Advantages of the new Cocoa Hybrid.

  • It has the capacity to produce 2,000 cocoa pods per tree, compared to 350 pods produced by the Forastero type.Cacao production per hectare very high.
  • This new variety (the hybrid Cocoa) has a maturity time of two to two-and-half years while the old cocoa variety (Forastero.) took four or more years to mature.This means a faster return on your investment.
  • The new Hybrid Cocoa doesn,t grow too tall or occupy space unlike the Trinitario type.
  • Its also disease resistant.

Hybrid Cocoa is currently the best Cocoa to cultivate.

Where to buy the Hybrid Cocoa Seedlings for planting.

In areas where Cocoa is heavily cultivated, there are often Cocoa farmers and research centres involve in the nursing of Hybrid Cocoa bean seeds (Cocoa seedlings).As an amateur Cocoa farmer, you won,t have the knowledge, time and money to grow Cocoa from a seed. Take a look at the pictures below and imagine the work involve.

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I will advice you to buy good Hybrid Cocoa seedlings from those Cocoa seedling farmers. Sometimes most unskilled Cocoa farmers  just dig holes and sow cocoa seeds straight away (just like they plant maize).This is a bad thing to do.

How To Plant Your Cocoa Seedlings 

Two factors that you need to take consideration in order to successfully plant your Cocoa seedlings include;

  • The Cocoa Planting season and the
  • The Cocoa Planting distance.

When to plant your Cocoa seedlings. 

The Best period for planting cocoa seedlings (cocoa bean seeds) is at the beginning of raining season (between April-May).Choose a day when the soil is moist and when the sky is cloudy. Plant the young cocoa trees (seedlings) when they are about 6 months old. So if you intend to buy your Cocoa seedlings from a research centre, make sure that you buy the ones that are atleast 6 months old.

Cocoa Planting distance (spacing).

With traditional methods, planting is most often done in a haphazard way i.e. the cocoa trees are not planted in rows and there is not the same distance between them.There,s a disadvantage of planting the Cocoa seedlings too far apart and very close together.

When the Cocoa trees are too far apart, they do not use all the soil; when they are too close, they grow badly.Instead, you should always plant in rows.First mark the rows for the cocoa trees, leaving about 2.5 to 3 metres between rows. Along each row, mark out with pegs the spots where the cocoa trees are to go. Leave about 2.5 to 3 metres between trees.In this way you can plant about 1 000 to 1 600 seedlings per hectare.

Digging the holes

Before planting cocoa trees, the grower must dig holes in order to stir the earth and loosen it. Dig the holes two months before planting the cocoa trees.When you are digging the hole, do not mix together the soil from above and the soil from below i.e. make two separate heaps.

If you find it difficult to understand this lesson, pay a visit to the Cocoa farms in your area and see what the professional Cocoa farmers are doing. Like i told you before, the easiest way to acquire Cocoa farming skills is through apprenticeship, intenship, employment or volunteering. Due to the fact that you already know the basics,it will take you not more than 1 month to acquire the neccessary skills. Its easier to acquire the necessary skills through practice than theory.

How to Sow the Cocoa seedlings in to the holes.

Like i told you before, when digging holes, the sub soil must be seperated from the bottom soil i.e. both heaps kept in seperate areas. Before sowing your seedling,put the top soil at the bottom and then insert your seedling in to the hole and cover it with the heap of bottom. Read more about this from FAO website.

Ok after you have successfully planted your Cocoa seedling the next thing you need to learn about is Cocoa maintainance.

Maintenance work include; pruning, fertilizing and controlling pests and diseases.

Pruning is the process of trimming a Cocoa tree in the form of removing branches, twigs and leaves in order to; 

  • Frame a good cocoa plant.
  • Dispose of plant parts such diseased or broken branches.
  • Stimulate the plant to form new branches and young leaves.
  • Pressing the risk of pests and diseases.
  • Improving the ability of plants to form fruit.

Fertilization is intended to supplement certain nutrients in the soil is insufficient for the needs of cultivated Cocoa plants. Fertilization should be done based on the principle of balance because of fertilizers that contain a certain element in excess will interfere with absorption of other nutrients. Maximum results will be obtained if the fertilization is done by: 

Proper dosage      : according to table
Exact type             : based on soil analysis
Appropriate time  : the beginning and end of rainy season
Appropriate way  : through the soil or leaf 

Cocoa Plants Harvest and Post Harvest

How to harvest your Cocoa pods.

Like i told you before,it takes just 2 to 3yrs for a Hybrid Cocoa seedling to mature and start producing pods.

When your Cocoa pods are ready for harvesting, follow the simple  procautions below to harvest the ripe Cocoa pods (without damaging your Cocoa trees).

  • Harvest the Cocoa using a sharp knife. Like i told you before, the new hybrid cocoa variety doesn,t grow too tall like the traditional Forastero cocoa tree. So won,t need a bamboo knife.
  • Harvesting is done by cutting just the ripe cocoa pods attached to the trunk or branches of the cocoa tree. It must be carefully done in order not to prevent flowering in the next period.
  • Harvesting is should be done under the supervision of a foreman, the foreman overseeing every 20 people per day.
  • A cacao fruit picker can pick as many as 1500 pieces per day.
  • Ripe fruit is harvested with a high density system with 6 / 7 means the fruit picked in 7 days 6 days. If the low density of ripe fruit, harvested with a system of 7 / 14.

Post Harvest

Collection.
Fruit that has been harvested is usually collected at a specific place and grouped according to ripeness. Skin breakdown implemented using a hard round wood.

Fermentation :

  • Is the core processing of cocoa beans, namely the process of formation of candidates for the taste, bitter taste reduction and improved physical appearance of seeds.
  • Fermentation container can be either a box or basket beraerasi.
  • During the fermentation of grain stacks covered in banana leaves or burlap sacks.
  • Pile of seeds in the minimum height is 40 cm box.
  • Avoid contact with metal.
  • Fermentation produces seeds that are less precise slaty
  • Long fermentation 5-7 days for cocoa lindak, and 3-4 days for noble cocoa, with a reversal once after 48 hours.

Signs of adequate or finished fermentation:

  • Seed seemed a little dry (moist)
  • Brown and smelling vinegar acid
  • Mucus easily removable
  • When cut in cross-sectional seeds look like rings of brown.

Drying

  • After it is dried until its water content 6-7%.
  • Drying can be by the sun or dryer or a combination of both.

Packaging and Storage

  • Dried cocoa seeds can be put into burlap Cocoa been sacks.
  • Each burlap filled with 60 kg of dry cocoa beans, then the sacks containing the dried seeds are stored in the warehouse is clean, dry and berfentilasi good.

Storage in warehouses should be no more than 6 months and every 3 months should be examined to see whether there is mold or pests that attack cocoa bean warehouse.

Ok we have now come to end of this Cocoa farming guide. Like i told you before, you will also need some practical experience about Cocoa farming before getting involve. Now that you have gotten the basics, it will be very easy for you to acquire the Cocoa farming skills and start your cocoa farm successfully.

3 tips to successfully manage your Cocoa farm.

  • Join the Cocoa farmers club in your area.
  • Stay updated with the trends in the Cocoa business.
  • Constantly read about Cocoa (learning is lifelong).