Horticulture :: Plantation Crops :: Cocoa
Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.)
Cocoa Growers + Consumers

Cocoa is an important commercial plantation crop of the world. Cocoa is a crop of humid tropics and so it was introduced as a mixed crop in India in areas where the environments suit the crop. It is cultivated in coconut and arecanut plantations large scale from 1970 onwards. It is grown as an under- storey intercrop with sufficient shade in southern states of India. In India, the current production is about 12,000 Metric Tonnes and Tamil Nadu produces about 400 Metric Tonnes.

Climate and soil

The natural habitat of the cocoa tree is in the lower storey of the evergreen rainforest, and climatic factors, particularly temperature and rainfall, are important in encouraging optimum growth. Cocoa is a perennial crop, and it can withstand different seasonal variations with good health and yield potential. Cocoa is normally cultivated at altitudes upto 1200 m above MSL with an annual rainfall of 1000mm to 2000mm and a relative humidity of 80 % with maximum 350C and minimum temperature of 150C. Cocoa can be grown as intercrop in coconut and arecanut gardens. It is predominantly grown on red laterite soils. It thrives well on wide range of soil types with pH ranging from 4.5- 8.0 with optimum being 6.5- 7.0.


There are three varietal types in cocoa namely Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. Forastero types are known to perform well under Indian conditions.

KAU Varieties and hybrids

  • CCRP – 1

  • CCRP – 2

  • CCRP – 3

  • CCRP – 4

  • CCRP– 5

  • CCRP – 6

  • CCRP – 7

  • CCRP – 8

  • CCRP – 9

  • CCRP – 10

  • CCRP – 11

  • CCRP – 12

  • CCRP – 13

  • CCRP – 14

  • CCRP – 15

  • Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, Vittal varieties and hybrids.

  • VTLCC-1 Vittal Cocoa Clone 1

  • VTLCS-1 Vittal Cocoa Selection 1

  • VTLCS-2 Vittal Cocoa Selection 2

  • VTLCH-1 Vittal Cocoa Hybrid 1

  • VTLCH-2 Vittal Cocoa Hybrid 2

  • VTLCH-3 Vittal Cocoa Hybrid 3

  • VTLCH-4 Vittal Cocoa Hybrid 4

  • VTLCH-5 Vittal Cocoa Hybrid 5 (Nethra Centura)

  • Vittal Cocoa Clone 1

    Vittal Cocoa Selection 1

    Vittal Cocoa Selection 2

    Cocoa Hybrid 1

    Vittal Cocoa Hybrid 2

    Vittal Cocoa Hybrid 3

    Cocoa Hybrid 4


    Cocoa can be propagated by seeds. Seeds are to be extracted from pods. Cocoa pods take 150-170 days from pollination to attain the harvest stage. The stage of maturity is visible from the change of pod colour from green to yellow (Forestero) and red to yellow (Criollo). Collection of seeds from biclonal or polyclonal seed gardens involving superior self-incompatible parents is recommended to ensure genetic superiority of planting materials.  In TNAU coconut nursery, a poly clonal seed garden with 7 improved clones of KAU (CCRP1 to CCRP7)  and Vittal cocoa clone 1 and 4 hybrids namely VTLCH1 to VTLCH4.
    Criteria for selection of mother plants for collection of seeds:

    1. Forastero type (green- immature, yellow- ripe) having medium to large pods of not less than 350 g weight, smooth or shallow furrows on the surface without prominent constriction at the neck can be selected.
    2. Husk thickness of pods should be less than 1 cm.
    3. Pod value (number of pods to give 1 kg wet beans) should be less than 12.
    4. Number of beans per pod has to be more than 35.
    5. Bean dry weight to be more than 1 g.
    6. The best seeds for sowing are those from the middle of the pod.


    Extract middle beans

    Harvested seed pods can be stored in shade upto one week. Viviparous germination is reported in ripe cocoa which may affect the percentage of germination if it is stored beyond one week. Seeds are to be sown immediately after extraction from the pods. Viability of the beans can be extended for some more days if freshly extracted seeds are stored in moist charcoal and packed in polybags. Other alternative is extracting beans, removing the testa and packing in polythene bags.

    Potting media

    Red Soil + Sand + FYM @ 2:1:1 + Super phosphate (5 kg/ton) was found to be best media for growth and development of cocoa seedlings

    Vegetative propagation

    As the seedling progenies showed wider genetic variability, to maintain true to types, asexual or vegetative propagation is followed. Grafting and budding are being followed in multiplication of cocoa.  It also ensures multiplication of identified high yielding clones in large quantities. Though vegetative propagation of cocoa by budding, rooting of cutting and grafting are feasible, the widely accepted methods in India are budding and grafting.

    Vegetative propagation Rootstock Scions Success (%)
    Patch budding
    10-12 month old seedlings Bud patch of 2.5 cm length and 0.5 cm width from the bud wood 85
    Soft wood grafting
    3-4 month old seedlings Scion stick of 12- 15 cm length with 2- 3 buds 70

    Selection of planting materials
    When seedlings are used as planting, select vigorous and healthy seedlings from polyclonal garden. The planting material should be of 4-6 month old seedling or grafted or budded plant.  The seedling/grafted/budded plant should be planted in the centre of the pit, not too deep. While planting grafts, polythene strip tied over graft joint should be removed and the joint should be above the soil.


    Budded plants

    Grafted plants

    Time and method of planting

    Cocoa is a shade loving plant. During its seedling period it requires about 50% shade and later the shade requirement is about 40%. The plant is grown as a mixed crop with other plants like spices and rubber mainly under rainfed conditions. Cocoa is planted as an intercrop in coconut and arecanut gardens.

    Main crop Spacing
    Cocoa as inter crop
    Coconut 7.5 x 7.5 One Cocoa row of plants at 3m interval at the center of two Coconut rows and One Cocoa at the center of two Coconut plants along the Coconut row. This layout will hold about 500 plants per hectare
    Arecanut 2.7 x 2.7 One Cocoa row of plants at 2.7m interval at the center of two Arecanut rows. Likewise alternate gaps of Arecanut rows should be filled in. This layout will hold about 686 plants/ha.
    Oil palm 4.5 x 4.5 Five cocoa plants would come between four oil plants resulting in 400 plants per hectare.

    Cocoa under Arecanut

    Cocoa under Oil palm

    Cocoa  under coconut

    Pits of 50 cm x 50 cm x 50 cm are dug, allowed to weather for one month and refilled with topsoil and 15-20 kg of compost of FYM to ground level. Tear off the polybags carefully, place the soil ball with the seedlings in the planting hole with minimum disturbance and press the soil around firmly. Planting should coincide with the onset of monsoon, but in places where irrigation is resorted to, flexibility in the time of planting is possible.

    Planting of cocoa seedlings

    Irrigation in cocoa

    Cocoa is usually grown in areas where water availability is adequate. Cocoa plants are sensitive to drought, irrigation in such cases becomes essential. During summer, as it exists in Southern India, the crop requires irrigation at weekly intervals. When it is grown as mixed crop with arecanut, the crop is to be irrigated once in a week during November-December, once in 6 days during January-March and once in 4-5 days during April-May with 175 litres of water. 

    Age of the plant Water requirement
    (litre/ plant / day)
    1st year 3-5
    2nd  year 10
    3rd year and later 20-25

    Soil nutrient management 

    Soil nutrient management is critical to the general health of the tree, particularly where cocoa is grown on poor soils with low nutrient levels. The fertility of soils under cocoa plantations with complete canopy formation can be maintained or sustained for a fairly long time due to the ability of cocoa fallen leaves to recycle nutrients back into the soil and decomposition of leaf litter.  However, continuous harvesting will eventually result in loss of soil nutrients

    Fertilizer schedule for cocoa

    An annual application of the following schedule should be applied in two equal splits, the first dose in April- May and the second dose in September- October i.e. pre and post monsoon applications.

    Fertilizer (g/ plant) I year II year III year onwards
    Urea 72 144 220
    Rock phosphate 65 130 200
    Muriate of Potash 77 154 230

    Method of application

    Fertilizer may be applied uniformly around the base of the tree up to a radius of 30 cm during the first year, forked and incorporated into the soil. For grown up plants the best method is to rake and mix the fertilizers with soil in shallow basins of around 75 cm. This radius may be increased gradually upto 150 cm after third year. Care should be taken not to spill the inorganic fertilizers on the trunk, branches or leaves of young trees in order to avoid burning.

    Fertilizer application

    Drip (Fertigation)

    Fertilizers can be applied through drip irrigation system (fertigation). Weighed quantity of fertilizers as per schedule was dissolved in water and then injected to sub-main through venturi and then to lateral lines as per treatment. Drip irrigation is done once in 2 days. The fertilizers are applied through drip irrigation at weekly intervals. 100:40:140 kg of N, P and K are applied through drip and fertigation in different stages of crop growth as detailed below.

    Phases of crop Months Weeks No. of weeks *Water soluble fertilizers
    (NPK (%))
    1st season flower initiation January & February 1-8 8 12.5
    Fruit set March 9-13 5 10.0
    Fruit development April and May 14-22 9 12.5
    Fruit maturity, harvest and 2nd season flower initiation June and July 23-30 8 20.0
    Fruit set August 31-35 5 12.5
    Fruit development September & October 36-43 8 15.0
    Fruit maturity and harvest November & December 44-52 9 17.5
    Total       100

    *Water soluble fertilizers      :   All 19(19% N: 19 % P: 19 % K), Mono – Ammonium Phosphate (MAP – 12:61:00 % NPK), Proprietary water Soluble form of N and K fertilizers containing 13% N and 45 % K (Multi ‘K’) and Urea (46% N)


    Control valve

    Control knob


    100 % RDF as WSF through fertigation by drip irrigation recorded more pod weight (486.82 g), number of pods tree-1­ (56.87), Pulp + bean weight pod-1 (148.79 g), number of beans per pod (48.62), single bean fresh weight (3.10g), single bean dry weight (1.24 g) and dry weight of the beans per tree (3.429 g).

    Nutrient management in cocoa

    Sixteen plant nutrients are essential for proper crop development. Each is equally important to the plant, yet each is required in vastly different amounts. These differences have led to the grouping of these essential elements into three categories; primary (macro) nutrients, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients.

    Primary (macro) nutrients

    Primary (macro) nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They are the most frequently required in a crop fertilization program. Also, they are need in the greatest total quantity by plants as fertilizer.

    Secondary Nutrients

    The secondary nutrients are calcium, magnesium, and sulphur. For most crops, these three are needed in lesser amounts that the primary nutrients. They are growing in importance in crop fertilization programs due to more stringent clean air standards and efforts to improve the environment.


    The micronutrients are boron, chlorine, cooper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. These plant food elements are used in very small amounts, but they are just as important to plant development and profitable crop production as the major nutrients. Especially, they work "behind the scene" as activators of many plant functions like chlorophyll production, carbohydrate formation, cell division and starch formation etc.,

    Micronutrient deficiency

    Zinc Deficiency

    Symptoms are chlorosis of the leaves. This appears   in patches and in advanced stages the green areas are found only along the vein margins, giving a vein banding   appearance to the leaves. Affected leaves show mottling and crinkling with wavy margin. Most of the younger leaves become narrow and sickle shaped showing characteristic ‘little leaf’ symptom.

    Symptoms on twigs include rosette and dieback. Shortening of internodes causes a rosette type of growth.

    Management: Foliar spray of a mixture of 0.3%  (3gm in 10 litter of water) Zinc Sulphate and 0.15% (w/v) lime.

    Training and pruning

    Pruning and shade management are essential in cocoa. Pruning involves thinning of branches and removal of  old or  dead stems, whilst shade management involves leaving forest trees and/or planting shade trees to optimise the light intensity in the cocoa grove.
    Pruning serves many purposes, including: 

    1.  It determines the shape of the tree.  It is important that the tree is shaped to facilitate  local

    Management practices:

    1. It maximizes the nutrient distribution towards pods. By cutting away new and unproductive chupons on mature trees, the pod size will be increased.
    2.  Thinning the cocoa canopy causes more light to filter to the centre of the tree, and more air circulation, whereby Black Pod disease can be reduced.

    Pruning and height control

    The basic aim of pruning cocoa trees is to encourage a tree structure that allows sunlight  to  filter  through  to  the  main  branches  and  trunk  (what  is  known  as  a jorquette)  to  stimulate  flowering  and  facilitate  harvesting. Pruning generally takes place twice a year. The first pruning is done after the main harvest (from April to July) and just before the rainy season, and the second pruning five months later, during the months of November and December.
     Young  plants  should develop  a  jorquette  at  a  height  of    about  1  meter.    It has been found that increasing light in-tensity decreases the jorquette-height. If a jorquette is considered too low, it can be cut off. The strongest of the re-growing chupon can be selected and all others removed.  In  due  course,  this  chupon  will  produce  a  jorquette  at  a  higher  level. Vegetatively propagated plants generally form a jorquette at ground level.
     Fan     branches  should  be  limited  to  3  to  4  to  allow  more  light  to  enter  and  decrease the  humidity  within  the  canopy.  Basal  chupons  should  be  removed  at  regular  intervals  and  all  lower  branches  that  form  or  bend  below  the  jorquette  should  be trimmed off. Furthermore  all  branches  within  60  cm  of  the  jorquette,  all  old  and  diseased branches  and  branches  growing  into  the  centre  of  the  tree  canopy  should  be  removed.  This should be  done  at  regular  intervals  through  maintenance  pruning.

    All prunings should be left in the field to rot down, except the diseased ones. Diseased or unwanted branches with vascular die- back and water shoots are to be removed to maintain the health and vigour of the tees. It include removing all unnecessary chupons, dead branches, climbing plants, rodents- damaged and over ripe pods. Pruning the trees at 20 %  canopy removal will increase the number of flower cushions per tree and number of fruits per tree and it reduces the light transmission (12.72 %) and increases the  chlorophyll content (1.961 mg g-1)

    Pruning the cocoa tree

    Pruned tree

    Pruning of grafted plants

    Pruning of grafted plants is done, after first year of planting, primary pruning should be done to obtain a supporting framework of one or more upward growing main stems. Then drooping or inward growing branches are to be removed. Secondary pruning is suggested to develop well- shaped canopy and desired canopy should be maintained in umbrella shaped form with about 3.8 m to 4.2 m spread and 2.7 m height depending upon the space and main crop in which cocoa is under planted/grown. Pruning is usually done annually in August- September. The proper pruning of   cocoa   ensures   adequate   ventilation   in   garden;   maintain   tree   height,   makes   spraying   and harvesting operations easier. It also prevents damage during the harvesting operation for the companion crop.
    To prevent the entry of fungi, fungicides are to be applied (Bordeaux paste) immediately after the pruning. Generally pruning is done after harvesting.

    Plant protection in cocoa

    Pests and diseases are important risk to productivity and quality of harvest which in turn affects the returns to the farmers. Since cocoa is an introduced crop the more important for the farmer is to be clear about the pests and diseases and be able to identify the symptoms correctly.

    Pest management

    1. Mealy bugs (Planococcus lilacinus, Planococcus citri, Paracoccus marginatus and Rastrococcus iceryoides)

    It colonizes on the tender parts of the plant such as growing tips of the shoots, the terminal buds, the flower cushions, the young cherelles and mature pods. Feeding of mealy bugs induces cherelle wilt. Following control measures are recommended.

    Planococcus lilacinus   

    Paracoccus marginatus         

    Rastrococcus iceryoides

    When the infestation is lesser: Spraying of Neem Oil 3% or fish oil rosin soap 25g/litre

    In case of severe incidence, spraying of any one of the following chemicals is recommended  : Dimethoate (2 ml/litre) , Profenophos (2 ml/litre), Chlorpyriphos (5 ml/litre), Buprofezin (2 ml/litre), Imidacloprid (0.6 ml/lit), Thiamethoxam (0.6g/litre)

    In the area where P. marginatus alone occurs, field release of Acerophagus papayae, the encyrtid parasitoid @ 100 per hamlet is recommended as the best management strategy.

    Acerophagus papayae


    2. Tea mosquitoe bugs (Helopeltis antonii)

    Infested pods develop circular water soaked spots around the feeding punctures. These punctures subsequently turn pitch black in color. Deformation of pods occurs because of multiple feeding injuries.


    Tea mosquitoe bug

    Damage symptom


    • When the infestation is lesser: Spraying of Neem Oil 3% is recommended.
    • In case of severe incidence, spraying of any one of the following chemicals is recommended: Imidacloprid (0.6 ml/lit) , Thiamethoxam (0.6g/litre), Profenophos (2 ml/litre), Carbaryl (2g/lit)

    3. Flatid Plant hoppers

    Nymphs and adults suck the sap from flowers, tender shoots and pods. They excrete honey dew resulting in the development of sooty mould fungus on the leaves and pods.

    Flatid Plant hopper nymphs Flatid Plant hopper Adults

    Management: Foliar application of a newer molecule Thiacloprid @ 2 ml/litre twice at 5 days interval is recommended for the management of these flatid plant hoppers.

    4. Aphids (Toxoptera aurantii and Aphis gossypii)

    They colonize on the underside of tender leaves, succulent stem, flower buds and small cherelles.  Heavy infestation may occur during hot summer and after rainy season which brings about premature shedding of flowers and curling of leaves.

    Toxoptera aurantii Aphis gossypii

    Management : Spraying of dimethoate @ 2 ml per litre

    5.Hairy caterpillars (Lymantriya sp., Euproctis sp., Dasychira sp.,)

    They cause serious leaf damage on seedlings and young trees.


    Management: Foliar spray of acephate @ 2g/litre of water

    6. Stem Girdler, Sthenias grisator

    Damage was done by female beetle which girdles the branches and inserts whitish spindle shaped eggs singly into the tissue in a slanting manner. Due to mechanical injury caused by girdling and oviposition, the branches above the girdle wither and dry.

    Damage by stem girdler
    Adult stem girdler


    1. Swab Coal tar + Kerosene @ 1:2 or carbaryl 50 WP 20 g / litre (basal portion of the trunk - 3 feet height) after scraping the loose bark to prevent oviposition by adults.
    2. Hook out the grub from the bore hole and apply monocrotophos 36 WSC 5 to 10 ml/ bore hole (or) one celphos tablet (3 g aluminum phosphide)/bore hole (or) apply carbofuran 3G 5 g/bore hole and plug with mud.
    3. Injection of dichlorvas (DDVP) + monocrotophos solution into bore holes after removing the webs and subsequently sealing of the holes with clay gives satisfactory control of the pest.

    7. Non- Insect pests

    Rats (Rattus rattus) and squirrels (Funambulus trisriatus and F. palmarum) are the major rodent pests of cocoa.  They cause serious damage to the pods. The rats usually gnaw the pods near the stalk portion whereas squirrels gnaw the pods in the center

    Rat damage

    Squirrel damage


    • The rats can be controlled by placing 10 g bromadiolone (0.005%) wax cakes or ripe banana stuffed with carbofuran on the branches of cocoa trees twice at an interval of 10-12 days.
    • Squirrels are best controlled by trapping with wooden or wire mesh single catch ‘live’ trap with ripe coconut kernel as the bait.


    1. Seedling blight (Phytophthora palmivora)

    The symptom develop on the leaves and stem of seedlings or budded plants. On leaves, small water soaked lesions appear which later coalesce in the blighting of leaves. On stem, water soaked lesions develop initially and later turn to black colour. Stem infection develop any point on the stem causing the death of seedlings.
     Management: Remove and destroy the affected seedlings. Spray with 1 percent Bordeaux mixture or 0.2% copper oxychloride just before the onset of monsoon and thereafter at frequent intervals.

    2. Black Pod rot (Phytophthora palmivora)

    Infection appears as chocolate brown spot, which spreads rapidly and soon occupies the entire surface of the pod. As the disease advances, a whitish growth of fungus consisting of fungal sporangia is produced over the affected pod surface. Ultimately, the affected pods turn brown to black. The internal tissues as well as the beans become discolored as a result of infection. The beans in the infected pods approaching ripeness may escape infection because they are separated from the husk on ripening

    Black Pod rot

    Management: Periodically remove the infected pods.  Spray 1 per cent Bordeaux mixture with on set of monsoon and also frequent intervals. Provide frequent drainage and regulate shade to increases aeration. Pseudomonas fluorescens (Pf1) liquid formulations @ 0.5% as soil and foliar spray (3 times per year- June, October & February) was found to be effective in reducing the Cocoa Pod rot and Stem canker.

    Preparation of 1% Bordeaux mixture 
    The mixture of copper sulphate and lime was known as Bordeaux mixture


    1.  Dissolve one kilogram of copper sulphate in fifty litters of water in a plastic bucket
    2. Dissolve one kilogram of lime in fifty litters of water separately in a plastic bucket
    3. Pour copper sulphate solution into the lime water slowly with constant stirring using a wooden stick
    4. Test the mixture before use for the presence of free copper, which is harmful to the plant by dipping a polished knife in it.
    5.  If the blade shows a reddish colour, add more lime till the blade is not stained when dipped afresh in the mixture.
    6.  Always use wooden or earthen or copper vessels for the preparation of Bordeaux mixture.

    Bordeaux mixture

    Bordeaux paste

    Bordeaux paste consists of same constituents as that of Bordeaux mixture, but it is in the form of a paste as the quantity of water used is too little. It is prepared by mixing 1 kg of copper sulphate and 1 kg of lime in 10 liters of water. The method of mixing solution is similar to that of Bordeaux mixture.

    3. Stem Canker (Phytophthora palmivora)

    The cankers appear either on the main trunk, jorquettes or fan branches. The earliest symptom is the appearance of a greyish brown water soaked lesion on the outer bark. A reddish brown liquid oozes out from these lesions, which later dries up to form rusty deposits. The tissues beneath the outer lesion show reddish brown discoloration due to rotting.


    It can be controlled in the initial stages by the excision of diseased bark followed by wound dressing with Bordeaux mixture or copper oxychloride paste .Wilted branches should be cut and removed.

    4. Vascular Streak Dieback (VSD)

    It is reported from some parts of Kerala. The first indication of the disease is a characteristic yellowing of one or two leaves on the second or third flush behind the growing tip. Diseased leaves fall within a few days of turning yellow and the other leaves on the shoot show similar symptoms. When the infected shoot is split lengthwise there is always a characteristic brown streaking.


    Management: The disease can be controlled by disposing diseased branches and regular pruning of chupons on the trunk. Cocoa nurseries should not be located near the diseased area. Avoid getting seedlings from diseased tracts. Kerala Agriculture University has developed some VSD resistant and high yielding varieties CCRP-1 to CCRP-7.

    5.Cherelle wilt 

    The shriveling and mummifying of some young fruits are a familiar sight in all cocoa gardens. In the early stages the fruits lose their lustre and in four to seven days they shrivel. The fruits may wilt but do not abscise. Many other factors like insects, diseases, nutrient competition and over production may also be associated with this problem. Hence, remedial measures will depend upon the nature of the causative factors involved.

    Cherelle wilt

    Harvesting and Processing

    Cocoa produces flowers from the 3rd year of planting onwards and economic yield starts from 5 th year. Properly well maintained (irrigation/ nutrient management) tree yielded 1-2 kg of pods / tree/ year.  Pods take about 140 – 160 days to ripen. Generally, cocoa gives two main crops in a year, i.e. September – January and June to August. Offseason crops may be seen throughout the year especially under irrigated condition. The stage of maturity of the pod is best judged by change of color of pods. Pods that are green when immature turn yellow when mature and reddish pods turn yellow or orange. The change in color starts from the grooves on the pods and then spreads to the entire surface. . The harvesting is to be done at regular intervals of 10 -15 days. Avoid over ripening of pods.

    Yield: 50-70 pods/tree/year


    The pods are heaped together and kept under shade for 5-6 days to ensure uniform ripening. This reduces acidity and helps in development of a better flavor suited for chocolate making. Cocoa pods are collected at a central location, where pods are broken, husks removed and the white-yellowish seed masses are heaped together for fermentation. Fermentation takes about 5 to 7 days, depending on the season and temperature. Farmers sometimes mix the heap on the 2nd or 3rd day, to allow for aeration and a more uniform fermentation

    For breaking the pods, wooden billets may be used. After breaking the pods crosswise, the placenta should be removed together with husk and the beans are collected for fermentation.  On an average 10-12 pods give 1 kg wet beans and 3 kg of wet beans (from 30-36 pods) give 1 kg of fermented and dried beans. Under normal cultivation practices, each cocoa tree yields about 1-2 kg annually.


    Fermentation of cocoa beans is essential to remove the edhering mucilaginous pulp to develop flavour and aroma precursors, reduce bitterness and kill the germ of the seed and to loosen the testa.  The process is simple but must be carried out  properly in order to get beans for good quality. Different methods of fermentation normally followed are 1. Box 2. Basket. However, in this box and basket methods are recommended depending on quality of bean to be fermented.

    Box method

    The boxes of 60 cm X 60 cm X 45 cm made of wood and having reapers at the bottom to allow the sweating from the pulp to drain out and provide aeration are used. The boxes could be arranged in tiers for transferring beans from one to the next in line below. Two detachable wooden planks are provided on one side of the box for transferring (mixing) the beans by removing the planks.
    The beans are loaded on fermentation box and covered with banana leaves or gunny bags. The mixing of beans is effected while transferring to the next box after 24 hours. The temperature of the fermentation mass will rise to 45 – 550C after about 48 hours of fermentation.
    Every alternate day the beans under fermentation have to be properly mixed for uniform fermentation. This has to be continued for 6 days.

    Basket methods

    In this method, Bamboo or cane baskets of suitable size could be used for fermenting small quantity of beans. One or two layers of banana leaves are placed at the bottom with provision to drain the sweating. The basket is filled with the beans and the surface is covered with banana leaves. A small weight is placed over the banana leaves. The basket is placed over a raised surface to facilitate drainage of the sweating for one day. Later the basket is covered with thick gunny bags. The beans are mixed thoroughly on the 3rd and 5th days and again covered with gunny bags. The fermentation will be completed at the end of 6th day and the beans withdrawn for drying.

    End point of fermentation

    Well fermented beans will be plumpy and filled with reddish brown exudates. The testa becomes loosened from the cotyledons. When cut open, the cotyledons will have a brownish colored with lots of ridges and furrow appearance in the centre with a brownish ring in the periphery. When above 50 per cent beans in a lot show the above signs, it can be considered as properly fermented.


    During fermentation the cocoa flavour develops and the beans turn brown. After fermentation, the beans can be dried by sun drying. The fermented cocoa beans have considerable moisture (55 -69 %) and the drying rate is depend upon temperature and the airflow. Sun drying should be adopted as far as possible, as it gives superior quality produce  compared to that by artificial drying. The moisture content of well dried beans is around 6 – 7 %. Slow drying is preferable for better quality of the beans.

    Grading and storage

    The flat, slate, shrivelled, broken and other extraneous materials are removed. The cleaned beans are packed in fresh polythene lined (150 – 200 gauge) gunny bags. The bags are kept on raised platform of wooden planks. The beans should not be stored in room where spices, pesticides and fertilizers are stored as they may absorb the odour from these materials.  

    Bean quality

    Cocoa quality depends on various factors, but primarily on the  cocoa variety and the post-harvest handling. Generally, fine or flavour cocoa beans are produced from Criollo or  Trinitario varieties, while bulk cocoa beans come from Forastero trees.

    Before fermentation Fermented beans

    Poor post-harvest handling can cause cocoa beans to be mouldy and/or germinated which reduces or diminishes the cocoa quality. Mouldy cocoa beans should be rejected on two counts, namely the tainting and  off-flavours  to the beans and possible contamination by mycotoxins (including ochratoxin).


    Updated on Dec. 2022

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