Ninety per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms by about 6 million farmers who earn their living from growing and selling cocoa beans.
Cocoa trees grow in tropical environments, within 10 degrees latitude from the equator. The ideal climate for growing cocoa is hot, rainy, and tropical, with lush vegetation to provide shade for the cocoa trees.
The primary growing regions are Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana produce over 60% of global cocoa supply.
Cocoa is a delicate and sensitive crop, and farmers must protect trees from wind, sun, pests, and disease. With proper care, cocoa trees begin to yield pods at peak production levels by the fifth year, and they can continue at this level for 10 years. But for all this hard work, cocoa farmers gain very little from a very profitable global cocoa trade.
Between 2016 and 2017 global cocoa prices dropped by by more than a third, disease and age are damaging cocoa trees and the number of farmers is falling because the benefits are so poor that few young people want to stay in the profession – the average age of a cocoa farmer is over 50. Farmers aren’t benefiting sufficiently and remain in poverty as their income fails to keep up with rising production costs and household expenses.