The top 10 cocoa producing countries list in 2023/24 include Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia, amongst the top 3 cocoa producing countries in the world.
The top 10 list has remained fairly unchanged over the last 5-10 years, with the exception of Mexico falling of it’s 8th place (down to 14th place) and Colombia rising up to the 10th place. Other countries, such as Peru or Equador has moved up or down within the lower numbers of the top 10 places, but the top 3 places have remained unchanged.
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Where in the world is cocoa grown?
Over 4.4 million tonnes of cocoa are produced each year and all of this production takes place in relatively small strip of the world – about 20 degrees both sides from the equator.
Chocolate is produced from cocoa beans which grow on cacao trees. These are only found in a narrow band either side of the Equator and require hot, and rainy humid conditions to bear fruit. This is a little known fact about chocolate, but the cocoa trees require such specific conditions that they simply don’t grow naturally anywhere else.
Cacao trees were first cultivated in Central America around 1,500 BC, but today, four of the five top cocoa producing nations are in West Africa.
You might recognise some of these names, such as Equador, Peru or Madagascar as a name for chocolate bar. This is because so called ‘origins’ chocolates are usually named after the country in which they were grown. Each chocolate bar taste very different and has a unique chocolate flavour. The flavour of each chocolate depends on where the cacao plant has grown and how the cacao bean has been produced.
(Figures for 2023/24 are from the UN Food and Agriculture and the values are in metric tons).
The top 10 cocoa producing countries in the world
1. Ivory Coast – 2,034,000
Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, is the world’s leading cocoa producer, accounting for almost 40% of global cocoa production as of 2021. That is over half a million tonnes more than the next biggest producer, Ghana.
Cocoa production is a significant contributor to Ivory Coast’s economy, with over 2 million Ivorians employed in the cocoa sector. The income from cocoa is very important for the Ivory Coast as it it’s around 70% of the country’s income.
However, cocoa production in Ivory Coast is not without its challenges. The industry has been plagued by issues such as child labor, deforestation, and low prices paid to farmers. Efforts have been made to address these issues, such as the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, which aims to eliminate deforestation from cocoa production in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
In terms of production, Reuters reports that Ivory Coast is increasing its domestic cocoa processing capacity, with plans to process 49% of its cocoa production domestically starting from October 2023. The country has also been investing in research and development to improve cocoa yields and quality, with the goal of increasing production while also promoting sustainability.
2. Ghana – 883,652
Most of Ghana’s of cocoa production comes from small holders who live and work on their own plantations.
Ghana is one of the world’s top cocoa producers, with cocoa being a major contributor to the country’s economy. Ghana is the second-leading world cocoa producer, with an annual minimum cocoa beans output of 700,000 metric tons. Cocoa production in Ghana has grown significantly over the years, with an average growth rate of 16% between 2000 and 2003.
Cocoa has a long production cycle, and new hybrid varieties need over five years to come into production, and a further 10 to 15 years for the tree to reach its full bearing potential. Despite the challenges, Ghana continues to invest in its cocoa sector to improve productivity and sustainability. For example, there are ongoing efforts to make cocoa production in Ghana more sustainable and support small-scale farmers with microloans.
Cocoa Life, an initiative by Mondelez International, has also been active in Ghana since 2008, supporting cocoa farmers and their communities. As of the end of 2021, there were 81,159 farmers participating in Cocoa Life across 818 communities in Ghana.
3. Indonesia – 659,776
In South East Asia, Indonesia produces over 780,000 tonnes of cocoa – all the more remarkable when you consider that production only started on a large scale in the early 1980s and today it’s the 3rd biggest area where cocoa beans are harvested.
4. Nigeria – 328,263
Nigeria is a significant cocoa producer and over the last few years has been moving between ranking seventh globally in total cocoa output to its current fourth place.
Production in Nigeria over the last 10 years has been in between 245,000 tons rising to around 420,000 tonnes and then dropping down again slightly to 328,263 tons, due in part to increased demand, investment in technology and resources of land.
In 2020, Nigeria produced an estimated 245,000 metric tons of cocoa beans, which has now increased to 328,263 in 2023.
Cocoa production in Nigeria is primarily carried out by small-scale farmers, with many farms located in the southwestern part of the country. The government has implemented various initiatives to support cocoa farmers, including the Cocoa Transformation Agenda, which aims to increase cocoa production, promote sustainability, and support value addition in the cocoa sector.
Nigeria’s cocoa industry has faced challenges in recent years, including low productivity, aging trees, and competition from other cocoa-producing countries. However, the country continues to invest in the industry, with initiatives such as the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), which provides research and development support to cocoa farmers.
Additionally, Nigeria has made efforts to promote sustainability in cocoa production, with initiatives such as the Cocoa Livelihoods Program, which provides training and support to farmers to improve the quality and yield of their cocoa crops.
5. Cameroon – 295,028
It’s time to move continents from the Americas to West Africa, where more cocoa is produced than any other region in the world. Cameroon’s production of 275,000 – 295,000 tonnes, is under threat from a crop of aging trees and a lack of new trees and sufficient land to start re-planting.
Cameroon is a significant cocoa producer, ranking fourth globally in total cocoa output. In the latest cocoa season, which ended in July 2021, Cameroon produced 292,471 metric tons of cocoa, according to Business in Cameroon. Cocoa production is a significant contributor to Cameroon’s economy, providing employment for over 600,000 farmers and generating significant export revenues.
Cocoa production in Cameroon is primarily carried out by small-scale farmers, with many farms located in the southern and western regions of the country. The government has implemented various initiatives to support cocoa farmers, including the Cocoa and Coffee Interprofessional Council (CCIC), which provides technical assistance, training, and market information to farmers.
Cameroon’s cocoa industry has faced challenges in recent years, including low productivity, aging trees, and competition from other cocoa-producing countries. However, the country continues to invest in the industry, with initiatives such as the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, which aims to eliminate deforestation from cocoa production. Additionally, Cameroon has made efforts to promote sustainability in cocoa production, with initiatives such as the Cocoa Development Fund, which provides financing for cocoa farmers and cooperatives.
6. Brazil – 235,809
Another country with a declining cocoa production industry, Brazil now imports more cocoa than it exports at 256,000 tonnes, but it still the largest producer in South America.
Brazil is a significant cocoa producer, ranking fifth globally in total cocoa output. According to Statista, Brazil produced 256,000 metric tons of cocoa beans in 2020. The state of Bahia is the largest cocoa-producing region in Brazil, accounting for around 90% of the country’s total output.
Cocoa production in Brazil has faced challenges in recent years, including a fungal disease that caused significant crop losses in the 1990s. However, the industry has since rebounded, with new technologies and varieties helping to improve the quality and yield of cocoa. Brazil is also investing in research and development to improve cocoa production and sustainability, with initiatives such as the Brazilian Cocoa Research Institute (CEPEC) and the Cocoa Productivity and Quality Program (PROCACAU).
Brazil’s cocoa is known for its unique flavor profile, with some varieties having a fruity taste and aroma. The country is also a significant producer of cocoa butter, which is used in the production of chocolate and other confectionery products. Brazil exports its cocoa and cocoa products to a variety of countries, including the United States, Argentina, and Chile, according to Agência Brasil.
7. Ecuador – 205,955
Widely considered by experts to produce cocoa beans most favoured by artisan makers, Ecuador’s cocoa production has significantly risen in the recent years from about 128,000 metric tons in 2018 to the current 205 – 250,000 metric tons
Ecuador is a significant cocoa producer, known for producing high-quality “Arriba” cocoa beans, which are highly prized by chocolatiers for their unique floral and fruity flavor profile. Ecuador is the world’s fifth-largest producer of cocoa, with an estimated annual production of around 205-250,000 metric tons of cocoa beans, according to Statista.
Cocoa production in Ecuador is primarily carried out by small-scale farmers, with many farms located in the coastal region of the country. The government has implemented various initiatives to support cocoa farmers, including the National Cocoa Plan, which aims to increase cocoa production and promote sustainability. The plan includes measures such as providing technical assistance to farmers, promoting good agricultural practices, and supporting research and development.
Ecuador’s cocoa industry has faced challenges in recent years, including climate change and competition from other cocoa-producing countries. However, the country continues to invest in the industry, with initiatives such as the Cocoa Route, which aims to promote tourism in cocoa-growing regions and support local farmers. Additionally, Ecuador has made efforts to promote sustainability in cocoa production, with initiatives such as the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, which aims to eliminate deforestation from cocoa production.
8. Peru – 121,825
Peru is a significant cocoa producer, known for producing high-quality “fine and flavor” cocoa beans.
The cocoa production in Peru has nearly doubled in last 5 years from 71, 000 to the current 121,825.
Peru’s cocoa production started to increase and in 2020 the country produced 95,000 metric tons of cocoa beans. Over the years Peru was the 8th or 9th place in the top 10 cocoa producing countries in the world.
In previous years the competition from other more lucrative crops (and because cocoa beans harvest is very labour intensive) has led to a decline in Peru’s output of cocoa beans to as low as 71,000 tonnes.
Cocoa production in Peru is primarily carried out by small-scale farmers, with many farms located in the Amazon region of the country. The government has implemented various initiatives to support cocoa farmers, including the National Program for the Development of Cocoa (PRONACAO), which aims to increase cocoa production and promote sustainability.
9. Dominican Republic – 86,599
A leader in promoting Fairtrade ethically sourced cocoa, Dominican Republic, is known for producing the dry well fermented Hispaniola cocoa bean. 68,021 tonnes of cocoa beans were produced in 2013
10. Colombia – 56,808
Colombia is a significant cocoa producer, ranking tenth globally in total cocoa output. In 2021, Colombia produced 65,174 metric tons of cocoa with a planted area of 194,428 hectares, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Colombia has 2.8 million hectares of land suitable for cocoa growth and is a major producer of fine cocoa.
Colombia’s cocoa production has been increasing in recent years, with a 54% rise in cocoa export business since the beginning of 2021, registering 5.1% year-on-year growth with revenues of almost $30m by the end of last year, according to Confectionery News. Despite this growth, Colombia’s cocoa production is still relatively small compared to other major producers such as Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Colombia’s cocoa is known for its high quality, with much of it classified as “Cacao Fino de Aroma,” a designation given to cocoa with a unique flavor profile.
The country has been investing in research and development to improve cocoa yields and quality, as well as supporting small-scale farmers through programs such as the National Federation of Cocoa Growers of Colombia (Fedecacao).
Additionally, Colombian cocoa contributes to the country’s sustainable development, with 90% of cocoa crops having forestry arrangements that capture 4.3 tons per hectare per year, according to Invest in Colombia.
Why Mexico cocoa production declined?
As I mentioned before, Mexico has unfortunately dropped from the top 10 cocoa producing countries, so I wanted to know why.
Mexico’s cocoa production declined significantly in the latter half of the 20th century due to a combination of factors, including competition from other crops, disease, and low prices for cocoa.
In the 1980s, the Mexican government encouraged farmers to switch from cocoa to other crops such as coffee and bananas, which were seen as more profitable. This led to a decline in cocoa production, as farmers cleared their cocoa trees to make way for other crops.
In addition to this, a fungal disease called “witches’ broom” devastated Mexico’s cocoa industry in the 1990s, causing a significant decline in cocoa production. The disease affected cocoa trees throughout the country, causing them to produce fewer and smaller pods, which contain the cocoa beans.
Low prices for cocoa also contributed to the decline in Mexico’s cocoa production. As global demand for cocoa increased, many countries began to produce cocoa on a large scale, leading to oversupply and lower prices. This made it difficult for Mexican farmers to compete in the global cocoa market, leading many to abandon cocoa farming altogether.
However, in recent years, Mexico has made efforts to revive its cocoa industry, with initiatives such as the Mexican Cocoa Route, which aims to promote sustainable cocoa production and support small-scale farmers. The government has also provided financial and technical support to cocoa farmers, with the goal of increasing cocoa production and promoting Mexico as a producer of high-quality cocoa.
The rest of the cocoa producing countries
The top 10 countries produce the most amount of the cocoa production each year. But there are not the only countries that grow and produce cocoa. There are 48 more countries that produce cocoa with the annual output of 44,504 tonnes to as little as 1 ton.
Some of the more specialist chocolates with unique flavours come from these countries, which is why I think they deserve their place on the list. I often use single origin chocolates from the smaller producers and I always found the quality really good.
11. Papua New Guinea – 44,504
12. Uganda – 31,312
13. Mexico – 27,287
14. Venezuela – 23,349
15. Togo – 22,522
16. India – 19,000
17. Sierra Leone – 14,670
18. Haiti – 14,173
19. Guatemala – 11,803
20. Madagascar – 11,010
21. Guinea – 10,638
22. Liberia 8,552
23. Tanzania 8,548
24. Philippines – 7,009
25. Nicaragua – 6,600
26. Bolivia – 5,518
27. Solomon Islands – 4,940
28. Republic of the Congo – 4,000
29. Dr Congo – 3,758
30. Sao Tome & Principe – 2,778
31. Vanuatu – 1,813
32. Sri Lanka – 1,291
33. Malaysia – 1,029
34. Grenada – 800
35. Honduras – 751
36. Panama – 662
37. Costa Rica 545
38. Samoa – 479
39. Angola – 442
40. Guyana – 429
41. Equatorial Guinea – 413
42. El Salvador – 357
43. Trinidad & Tobago – 320
44. Dominica – 312
45. Jamaica – 305
46. Belize – 244
47. Cuba – 231
48. Saint Vincent & The Grenadines – 222
49. Gabon – 187
50. Timor Leste – 176
51. Central African Republic – 149
52. Thailand – 125
53. Saint Lucia – 51
54. Comoros – 40
55. Micronesia – 33
56. Fiji – 12
57. Suriname – 5
58. American Samoa – 1
This blog post was originally written on 6 January 2018 and last updated on 13 April 2023