Theobroma cacao, or simply cacao, is a plant native to the Western Hemisphere, specifically tropical South America, where it was most abundantly cultivated in the Central American lowlands as well as the Amazon and Orinoco river valleys. For several decades, the Aztecs used it as a mild stimulant.
Later, it was brought to Spain, where it became widely popular as an alternative beverage. Cacao cultivation was not widely practiced prior to the production of cacao-based chocolate in most European countries, which occurred only in the twentieth century.
As a result of the rapid growth of the chocolate-making industry in European and American countries, cacao cultivation has exploded in many tropical countries. Cacao, like other tropical commercial items, is mostly consumed by people living in temperate climates.
Cacao is primarily suited to tropical climates, necessitating comparatively higher temperature and rainfall annual ranges. Cacao farming is better grown in areas with an average annual temperature of 27°C and 200 cm of rainfall. Cacao includes deep clayey soils rich in iron and potash, as well as a wide range of annual temperature and rainfall.
Transportation and labor supply are much more important than other economic factors. In reality, maintaining good road and railroad conditions in such humid climatic conditions, where heavy rain causes significant damage to the transportation system, is extremely difficult. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested to keep the highways in good repair. The natives used to bring their crops to the markets on their heads because the cacao-growing regions are infested with tsetse flies.
Cacao production began in tropical South America, but due to the phenomenal rise in cacao demand for chocolate-making in most of the world’s industrialized industrial nations, both acreage and productivity have risen dramatically.
Ghana exported cacao for the first time in the world in 1891, which coincidentally marked the start of a new period in African cacao production. With Ghana’s ascension to the top producer and exporter of cacao in the world, the focus has moved from South America to Western Africa, with Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Nigeria among the world’s top cacao growers.
West African countries account for nearly 70% of global cacao production, with the rest coming from tropical American countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and a few Asian countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.
Cacao is a major source of revenue for many cacao-producing countries around the world. There are 41 countries in the world that are notable for cacao production, of which West Africa and Brazil are outstanding and therefore hold a prominent position, not only as cacao producers but also as important exporters to the international market.
It’s worth noting that the proportions of cacao exports differ a lot from one country to the next, and this has a big impact on the economy. Western African countries are entirely reliant on the proceeds from cacao exports.
Brazil, on the other hand, is much less reliant on cacao export earnings. Ghana leads the world in exports, accounting for nearly a quarter of all exports; Nigeria, Brazil, and the Ivory Coast are the other top exporters.
Cacao, like the other two beverage crops, tea and coffee, is eaten in Western Europe and America’s developed countries. For several years, the United States has been the most important cacao importer, accounting for about a quarter of all imports, followed by the United Kingdom (13 percent), Germany (12 percent), and the Netherlands; France is also a major buyer. Japan, Belgium, and Italy are three of the most important countries in the world.