Cocoa Farming in Nigeria – How to Grow Cacao

June 3, 2022

Cocoa farming the growing of cocoa for the purpose of getting cocoa beans and other derivatives from the cocoa trees. Cocoa is named Theobroma Cacao botanically.

Cocoa farming is one of the most lucrative farming ventures in Nigeria. This is due to the huge demand for cocoa and its derivatives worldwide. The demand for cocoa products is huge everywhere in the world. It is an international crop.

Cocoa tree called Cacao grows to a height of 6 – 12 metres. It is usually grown in the humid tropical belt of the world.

Chocolate, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa solids are some of the derivatives that can be gotten from the cocoa beans.

Cocoa was the highest foreign exchange earner in Nigeria before the advent of crude oil. The average cocoa production in Nigeria dipped from 420,000 tons in the 1960s to 170,000 tons in 1999.

Nigeria’s cocoa production increased to about 390,000 tons between 2000 and 2010, but dipped again to about 190,000 tons in 2015 and 2016. Nigeria is currently the sixth largest producer of cocoa in the world.

Ivory Coast is the largest producer of cocoa in the world; it produced about 2.2 million tons of cocoa in the year 2018.

In Nigeria, cocoa is mainly grown in southern states of Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Rivers and Akwa Ibom,. Cocoa grow well in the southern belt of Nigeria because of the tropical and humid nature of the region.

cocoa farming in Nigeria

Steps to Take to Start Cocoa Farming in Nigeria

The following are the steps to take to grow cacao in Nigeria:

  1. Site Selection
  2. Climatic Conditions
  3. Soil Suitable for Cocoa Farming
  4. Soil Preparation
  5. Selection of Cocoa Variety to Plant
  6. Equipment
  7. Irrigation
  8. Cocoa Seedlings Nursery Management
  9. Transplanting of Cocoa Seedlings to Field
  10. Weed Control
  11. Training and Pruning of Cocoa
  12. Fertilizer and Manure Management
  13. Management of Pests and Diseases
  14. Harvesting
  15. Processing of Cocoa
  16. Marketing

Site Selection

Cocoa should be grown in a farmland that is easily accessible by road. This will make the evacuation of the produce from the cocoa farm easy and seamless.

The site to be used for the cultivation of cocoa should be in the humid tropical belt as cocoa prefers humid tropical growing climatic conditions. The farmland should also have a type of soil that is rich with a lot of humus.

Climatic Conditions Suitable for Cocoa Farming

Cocoa grows well in tropic and humid climatic conditions. To cultivate cacao, you need to situate your farm in a location that has a tropical climatic condition.

Cocoa prefers areas with an annual rainfall level of 2,000mm. The rainfall should be well distributed all through the year. Cocoa is one of the crops that really do well in humid areas.

Soil Suitable for Cocoa Farming

Cocoa does well in dark loamy soil or any soil rich in humus and organic matter. The soil should be well draining and relatively loose. Sandy soil and clay soil should be amended with organic matter if you want to use it for cocoa farming.

The soil pH should be 4.0 – 7.5. If your soil is very acidic, you can amend with limestone or dolomite.

cocoa beans

Soil Preparation

If the farmland to be used is heavily forested, the trees and stumps should be removed. Bulldozers can be used to remove the trees and stumps, however, care should be exercised so that the top soil is not removed.

After the removal of the trees and stumps, the soil should be ploughed and harrowed. Several rounds of plough may be done for the soil to be loose. Ridging can also be done to create beds. For virgin soils, ploughing and harrowing may not be done.

For soil with low organic matter, farmyard manure, animal manure and compost can be added to the soil. These should be mixed to the soil through ploughing.

The soil should be ploughed several times till the soil forms a fine tilth. Tractors with harrowing implement may be used to harrow the farmland.

High phosphate fertilizer like Single Super Phosphate fertilizer or Diammonium Phosphate Fertilizer should be applied to every pit meant for planting the sucker. Depending on how fertile the soil is, up to 50 - 150 grams of Single Super Phosphate fertilizer may be applied per planting hole.

Planting holes should be 20cm x 20cm x 20cm. The cocoa should be spaced at 3m x 3m giving a population of 1111 plants/ha.

Selection of Cocoa Variety to Plant

The following are some of the varieties of cocoa that can be planted in Nigeria:

CRIN (Cocoa Research Institute Nigeria) Varieties

  • T7/12 X Na321 (C64)
  • T12/5 X Pa35 (C65)
  • T17/11 X Na32
  • T20/21 X Na32
  • T30/10 X Na32
  • T65/7 X Na32
  • T85/5 X Pa35
  • ICS1 X Na32
  • ICS7 X Na32
  • C77 X C23 (CSSV tolerant)
  • C77 X C64 (CSSV tolerant)
  • C77 X C87 (WACRI series 11F)
  • C75 X C14 (WACRI series 11KC)
  • C75 X C25 (WACRI series 11D).

Source: CRIN


The following equipment can be used for growing of cocoa:


Using irrigation can boost the yield of cocoa by 100 – 200%. Though irrigation is not popular for cocoa farming but it is highly beneficial to the cultivation of cocoa.

Irrigation can do a whole lot in enhancing the yield of cocoa in Nigeria.

The following types of irrigation can be used for cacao farming:

  • Drip Irrigation: Drip irrigation is a type of irrigation that provides for the wetting of the root zone of plants. In drip irrigation systems, a network of drip tapes, pipes or hoses and emitters are used to pass water to crops. For cocoa, drip irrigation can be used to provide water for the crops. You can also increase the cocoa tree population with the use of drip irrigation.
  • Sprinkler: Sprinklers work like rain; they spray water to the crops. Sprinklers can increase the humidity on your farm, cocoa do well under high humidity. Spray tubes, rain hoses, center pivots and rain guns are some types of sprinklers that can be used for cocoa farming.

Cocoa Seedlings Nursery Management

A shade is required for the growing of cocoa seedlings. The cocoa seeds should be put in black planting bags. Frequent wetting should be done for the cocoa seed to sprout.

A shade can be created with the use of shade nets. Palm fronds can also be used to build a shade house for the cocoa seedlings.

Transplanting of Cocoa Seedlings to the Field

The cocoa seedlings should be transplanted to the field in the early morning or late evening. Transplanting of the cocoa seedlings should not be done in the afternoon when it is too hot.

The field should be well irrigated before the transplanting of the seedlings. Farmyard manure or compost should be available and there must have been the digging of planting holes before transplanting of the cacao seedlings.

Carefully remove the cocoa seedlings from the soil or planting bag and place it in the planting hole on the field. Fill up the hole with a mix of soil, farmyard manure or compost and 65 - 195 grams of Single Super Phosphate fertilizer (SSP).

Mychorizhae and other microbial innoculants may be placed in the planting pit to speed up the growth of the cocoa seedlings. If the soil is infected with nematodes, suitable nematicides like vellum should be applied.

About 1,100 cocoa seedlings can be planted per hectare.

Weed Control

Herbicides like Allion can be used for weeds control in cocoa farms. However, shields should be used when applying herbicides. The shields will prevent the herbicide from touching the cocoa tree.

Cover crops can also be used for weeds control in cocoa farms. Cover crops can also improve the soil structure and prevent erosion and nutrients’ leaching.

Plastic mulches and organic mulches can also be used to prevent the growth of weeds in cocoa farms. Plastic mulch covers the surface of the soil and prevents the growth of weeds.

Cutlasses, hoes and motorized weeders can also be used to remove weeds.

Training and Pruning of Cocoa

The pruning of cocoa trees is not popular in Nigeria. Removing dead and diseased plant tissues from the cocoa tree can enhance the growth and yield of the cocoa tree.

Fertilizer and Manure Application in Cocoa Farming

Cocoa is a heavy feeded, it needs a lot of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and all the micronutrients.

7 – 14 kg of farmyard manure or well cured animal manure should be mixed with soil and added to each planting hole. 100 - 150 grams of NPK 15:15:15 fertilizer and 50 - 80 grams of Single Super Phosphate (SSP) fertilizer should be added to every planting hole.

The fertilizers should be applied in a ring form around each cocoa tree. Fertigation can also be used to apply fertilizers; in this case, small doses of fertilizers will be applied to the cocoa tree intermittently. Fertigation is more efficient than top dressing and side dressing of fertilizers.

Microbial innoculants, chelates and humates like King Humus Plus should also be used for the cocoa trees.

Some of the fertilizers that can be used for the growing of cacao include the following:

  • NPK fertilizers
  • Single Super Phosphate Fertilizer
  • Urea
  • Potassium Humate
  • Boron Fertilizer
  • Calcium Magnesium Nitrate Fertilizer
  • Potassium Nitrate
  • Potassium Sulfate etc.

Pests and Diseases’ Management

Cocoa as a crop is affected by pests and disease like:

  • Black Pod Disease
  • Swollen Shoot Disease
  • Die Back Disease
  • Cocoa Canker Disease
  • Cocoa Mirids
  • Cocoa Mealy Bugs
  • Rhinoceros Bettle
  • Aphid
  • Nematodes
  • Viral Diseases
  • Fungal Diseases
  • Leaf Rot
  • Bacterial Wilt
  • Fusarium Wilt
  • Root Rot etc

These pests and diseases can be managed with the use of fungicides, insecticides, nematicides and acaricides etc.


Depending on the variety of cocoa you have on your farm, harvesting usually starts after 3 – 5 years. Harvesting is usually done with the use of cutlasses and sickles.

Processing of Cocoa Products

Cocoa can be processed into the following:

  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Cocoa Liquor
  • Cocoa Solid etc.


Cocoa is usually sold in the form of dry cocoa beans in Nigeria. A significant percentage of the cocoa beans harvested in Nigeria are bagged and exported.

Cocoa processing companies in Nigeria like Stanmark, Nestle and Cadbury etc. also use cocoa for the production of chocolate and cocoa butter.

cocoa farming

How Much Does it Cost to Start a One Hectare Cocoa Farm in Nigeria

The cost to start a one hectare cocoa farm is detailed below:

  • Acquisition of one hectare farmland: N100,000 – N400,000
  • Surveying and Land Documentation: N100,000 – N200,000
  • Clearing, Ploughing and Harrowing: N55,000
  • Seedlings: N120,000
  • Planting: N10,000
  • Irrigation: N300,000 – N650,000 (Optional)
  • Fertilizers and Manure: N20,000 – N100,000 (Depending on soil fertility)
  • Pesticides: N20,000
  • Others: N100,000

Questions and Answers on Cocoa Farming

Question: What is fermentation of cocoa beans?

Answer: Cocoa beans fermentation is done by wrapping heaps of cocoa beans in plantain leaves and waiting for days for microbes to work on the cocoa beans. Fermentation is done to reduce the bitterness of the cocoa beans. It helps in improving the taste, flavor and colour of the cocoa beans.

Question: How can cocoa beans be dried?

Answer: Cocoa beans are usually spread on the surface of the floor and sun dried. They can also be dried in a specially designed ovens meant for cocoa beans drying.

Question: What bags are used for bagging cocoa beans?

Answer: 50kg jute bags are used for the bagging of cocoa beans.

Question: What are the two main groups of cocoa varieties?

Answer: The two main groups of cocoa varieties are Criello group and Forastero group.

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