The Top 8 Cocoa-Producing Countries in the World

Written by Patrick MacFarland
Published: December 6, 2023
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Nearly everyone loves chocolate. Chocolate is now a delicious commodity that gets people excited. Whether it’s Swiss chocolate or the hot chocolate drink, many people love consuming it. But where does it come from? Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean. The cocoa bean, also called cacao, is a seed that can create other substances like cocoa butter and chocolate. The tree comes from the Amazon and was introduced to Mexico and the rest of Central America by the Olmecs thousands of years ago. Eventually, cacao trees made their way to Africa, where most cocoa-producing countries come from.

Let’s take a look at the top eight cocoa-producing countries in the world. We’ll delve into each country’s cocoa production and give you fun facts, too.

Côte d’Ivoire

Cocoa pods

The West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire produces the most cocoa out of any other country in the world with 2.2 million metric tons.

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The West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire is by far the largest producer of cocoa in the world. Ghana used to be the number one producer but in 1978, the West African country overtook Ghana and it has since dominated worldwide production. About 70% of the world’s cocoa production is concentrated in West Africa, with Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire dominating 50% of total production. This past year, however, it has been reported that the cocoa harvest has not been the best for those hoping for a great harvest season as yields have been disappointing.

Over the years, child labor has been an increasing problem in cocoa production, particularly in the West African nations. Côte d’Ivoire’s numbers when it comes to child labor have been a huge problem that has caught the attention of organizations dedicated to stopping child trafficking. 

Ghana

Cocoa Pods growing healthy on cocoa tree with Abundant pods

The West African nation of Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa with 750,000 metric tons.

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Cocoa is an important cash crop for Ghana, and in fact, it is the country’s main cash crop. Although they are the second-largest producer of cocoa, together with Côte d’Ivoire, they produce 60% of the world’s production. According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, it was found that over 1.5 million children worked in cocoa farms in West Africa, particularly Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. It was also reported that 43% of children work in hazardous labor on these farms. Various organizations and governments around the world are actively combating child labor in these two countries. 

Ecuador

Fine Aroma Cacao Fruit, Ecuador

Located in South America, Ecuador comes in at number three in the world’s production of cocoa with 370,000 metric tons.

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Ecuador calls itself the home of the cacao, as the bean is from Latin America. Archaeologists have surmised that it most likely originated in what is now Ecuador. Of course, this is just a supposition. Nevertheless, the country is one of the largest producers of cocoa today. Furthermore, cocoa is one of the country’s main cash crops. Even though it doesn’t produce on the scale that Côte d’Ivoire produces, they report that 70% of their cocoa beans are of the highest quality. There are several kinds of cocoa beans produced in Ecuador, but the main one is called Arriba (or Nacional). 

Cameroon

cocoa

Located in West Africa, Cameroon is the fourth-largest producer of cocoa with 300,000 metric tons.

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Cameroon’s cocoa production is very important to the country’s economy. Reports state that approximately 400,000 people work in the cocoa industry and it contributes to the GDP greatly with a whopping 76%. Furthermore, Cameroon’s cocoa industry generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the country.

Cameroon’s government has a goal of increasing cocoa production to put itself in the top three largest cocoa producers in the world. Unfortunately, the increase in production has a downside, which is the amount of deforestation in the country because of increased agricultural feats in the West African nation.

Nigeria

Fresh Cocoa fruit in farmers

The West African nation of Nigeria is the fifth-largest cocoa producer in the world with 280,000 metric tons.

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Cocoa production is Nigeria’s main cash crop. Beginning in the 1870s, cocoa production quickly spread throughout many states in the country. Today, the states that mainly have cocoa farms are around 20 degrees north or south of the equator — Ondo, Ogun, Delta, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River. Unfortunately, several problems affect cocoa production in the country. Mainly there are problems with yield results, inconsistent yield results, as well as pest attacks and very little mechanized equipment available in the country. This in turn affects the quality of the cocoa beans exported to other countries.

Brazil

Cocoa with chocolate pieces and chocolate powder on the table.

The South American nation of Brazil is the second-largest producer of cocoa in South America. It is also the sixth-largest in the world with 220,000 metric tons.

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The Brazilian market of cocoa production has changed drastically over the decades. About 430,000 metric tons of cocoa were being produced in Brazilian farms in the early 1980s. That has dropped by half 40 years later. The culprit was a fungal disease called Witches’ Broom that ravaged cocoa trees in the country — mainly the states of Bahia and Pará. The recovery never happened and the country went from second to sixth in worldwide production. Nevertheless, Brazil has increased production from the lowest point in production during the 1990s when they produced less than 90,000 metric tons.

Indonesia

Chocolate tree

Located in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is the seventh-largest producer of cocoa with 200,000 metric tons.

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As Asia’s leading producer of cocoa, Indonesia has increased its production. It now has about 3.7 million acres of cocoa trees throughout the country. This is a drastic change from 2009 when the government announced it would increase cocoa production. The areas of Indonesia where the most cocoa is produced are Sulawesi, North Sumatra, West Java, Papua, and East Kalimantan. When it comes to cocoa beans, three types of beans dominate Indonesian cocoa farms — the Criollo, the Trinitario, and the Forastero. Interestingly enough, the Forastero bean comprises 90% of the entire world’s production, whereas the Criollo bean is considered one of the highest-quality cocoa beans.

Papua New Guinea

Orange color cacao pods

Indonesia’s neighbor, Papua New Guinea comes in at number eight in the world’s cocoa production with 42,000 metric tons.

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Clocking in at number eight, Papua New Guinea is Indonesia’s neighbor in Southeast Asia. It may not be the four main agricultural products farmed in the country, but cocoa is still an important cash crop. This is especially true for small business farmers in the 14 (out of 22) provinces where cocoa is farmed. A total of 80% of the country’s cocoa production comes from smaller farms, which affects 150,000 families country-wide. Papua New Guinea makes about 88 million dollars in cocoa exports every year.

Conclusion

And there you have it, these are the top eight cocoa-producing countries in the world. They are the ones that make the world run when it comes to people’s chocolate consumption. These countries may be in different parts of the world, but they all have one thing in common. All these countries have tropical types of climates where cocoa trees can thrive. There can’t be any chocolate without cocoa trees. Unfortunately, cocoa trees cannot grow in certain types of climates. This means it’s up to countries like those on this list to ensure the cocoa bean can be produced. The next time you’re eating a bar of chocolate, make sure you acknowledge that one country here made it possible to enjoy that delicious piece of chocolate.

Top 8 Cocoa-Producing Countries in the World

CountryCocoa Production (in metric tons)
Côte d’Ivoire2.2 million
Ghana750,000
Ecuador370,000
Cameroon300,000
Nigeria280,000
Brazil220,000
Indonesia200,000
Papua New Guinea42,000

The photo featured at the top of this post is © baibaz/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Patrick Macfarland is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel, geography, and history. Patrick has been writing for more than 10 years. In the past, he has been a teacher and a political candidate. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from SDSU and a Master's Degree in European Union Studies from CIFE. From San Diego, California, Patrick loves to travel and try new recipes to cook.

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