The History of Cocoa and its production in Ghana

The History of Cocoa and its production in Ghana

Cocoa originated from around the headwaters of the Amazon in South America. Its cultivation and value spread in ancient times throughout central and Eastern Amazonian and northwards to Central America

Cocoa beans were used by the Native Americans to prepare a chocolate drink or chocolate and also as a form of currency for trading purposes and payment of tribute to the king. After the conquest of Central America in 1521, Hernan Cortez and his Conquistadores took a small cargo of cocoa beans to Spain in 1528, together with utensils for making the chocolate drink. 

By 1580 the drink had been popularized in the country and consignments of cocoa were regularly shipped to Spain. The popularity of chocolate as a drink spread quickly throughout Europe, reaching Italy in 1606, France in 1615, Germany in 1641 and Great Britain in 1657.

Large-scale cultivation of cocoa was started by the Spanish in the 16th century in Central America. It spread to the British, French and Dutch West Indies (Jamaica, Martinique and Surinarn) in the 17th century and to Brazil in the 18th century. From Brazil it was taken to SÃO Tome and Fernando Po (now part of Equatorial Guinea) in 1840; and from there to other parts of West Africa, notably the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.   Gold Coast - Ghana
The available records indicate that Dutch missionaries planted cocoa in the coastal areas of the then Gold Coast as early as 1815, whilst in 1857 Basel missionaries also planted cocoa at Aburi.

However, these did not result in the spread of cocoa cultivation until Tetteh Quarshie, a native of Osu, Accra, who had travelled to Fernando Po and worked there as a blacksmith, returned in 1879 with Amelonado cocoa pods and established a farm at Akwapim Mampong in the Eastern Region.  Farmers bought pods from his farm to plant and cultivation spread from the Akwapim area to other parts of the Eastern Region.

Amelonado cocoa pod

In 1886, Sir William Bradford Griffith, the Governor, also arranged for cocoa pods to be brought in from Sao Tome, from which seedlings were raised at  Aburi Botanical Garden and distributed to farmers.

In recognition of the contribution of cocoa to the development of Ghana, the government in 1947 established the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) as the main government agency responsible for the development of the industry.
Currently there are six cocoa growing areas namely Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Volta, Central and Western regions.

The first export of cocoa from the Gold Coast took place in 1885 and by 1908, Ghana export had reached 20,000 metric tons. Ghana attained the Number One status in the production of cocoa in 1911 with 41,000 tons. In the 1920s, production increased to between 165,000 and 213,000 tons. Ghana’s contribution to the world’s total output then was 40%. Between 1976 and 1977, cocoa started experiencing a fall in its production.

Production began to decline between 1976 and 1977 due to the outbreak of pests and diseases like the capsid and swollen shoot viral disease and falling prices until it reached a 63 year low of 158,000mt in 1983/84.

Ghana – 18%
After a long time at the top of cocoa production, today Ghana is at second place. Most of the time, cocoa is cultivated on family farms of less than 10 hectares. The yield is poor on those farms where the trees have aged.
Originally, cocoa was produced in the east of the country. From 1940, production moved to the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions. Since the middle of the 1980s, production has been situated in the west of the country. Ghana produces an average of 500 000 tonnes of cocoa beans per year. Cocoa remains an important part of the country’s economy.


From the early years until the late 1930’s the local merchants were the ones controlling the cocoa trade in the Gold Coast. Companies like the U.A.C., Paterson and Zochonis (PZ), G.B. Olivant, UTC, Cadbury and Fry as well as J. Lyons were importing foods into the Gold Coast and purchasing farm products such as coffee, cocoa, kennels, rubber and palm oil for export overseas.

All, however, was not smooth sailing. Difficulties arose as a result of Cadbury and Fry emphasizing on quality to lower prices and also supporting expansion of farms in various ways. This action did not go down well with other local merchant companies as they assumed Cadbury and Fry were monopolizing the industry. In 1937, farmers went on strike and refused to sell their cocoa on the grounds of low price for their produce.

The outcome of these developments resulted in the establishment of the Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) in 1947 to provide marketing services to farmers. The Produce Buying Agency was given monopoly over the internal marketing of cocoa in the country in 1977. The sector was however liberalized in 1992 as a result of a World Bank policy. This led to the licensing of many companies (LBCs) including Kuapa Kokoo to do the internal marketing of cocoa.
The Cocoa Marketing Company performs the external marketing of cocoa.


Ghana’s cocoa pricing has witnessed some changes over the years. Beginning from 1947 when the Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) was established, together with Cocoa Marketing Company (CMB) to advise the Government as to what price to pay to the farmers every year, taking into consideration the world price and local factors.
At the moment pricing of cocoa is done by a committee known as Producer Price Review Committee (PPRC) which meets quarterly to review the cocoa prices payable to our farmers. This committee comprises of Government, Cocobod, LBCs and farmers representatives.

Divine Chocolate Limited, formerly the Day Chocolate Company, is a manufacturer of Fairtrade chocolate products in the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1997 members of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union at their 4th Annual General Meeting resolved to set up a chocolate Company in the United Kingdom with “Papa Paa” (best of the best) cocoa beans produced by the members themselves.

In partnership with Twin Trading and supported by the Body Shop, Christian Aid and Comic relief, the then Day Chocolate Company was formed in the United Kingdom in 1998 with Kuapa Kokoo owning a third of its shares.
Its first product, launched in October 1998, was Divine milk chocolate. Since then, variations such as Divine white chocolate, flavoured milk chocolate, dark chocolate and drinking chocolate etc. have been added to the company's list. In the year 2007 the name of the Company was changed to Divine Chocolate Limited.
Divine Chocolate’s trading system is unique even in the sphere of fair trade, in that members of Kuapa Kokoo own the majority stake in the company and share in its profits. Another brand, Dubble, was launched in 2000 in collaboration with Comic Relief.
Divine Chocolate launched a subsidiary in the USA in 2007. Kuapa Kokoo owns a third of the shares in Divine USA.
Divine Chocolate UK was voted Observer Best Ethical Business in 2008 and Best Social Enterprise in 2007. Divine Chocolate celebrated their 10th Anniversary this year.
Members of Kuapa Kokoo are very proud to own shares in Divine Chocolate as it gives them a voice in the global trade of chocolate.
Click here to visit Divine


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