How A Cocoa Farmer Earns A Living
What role does the farmer play in their revenue? A big one.
There are dozens of factors that make a difference in farm gate price. The simple equation for farmer revenue is price times kilos of beans. The more kilos of beans they have, the more revenue they will make. It is more complex than this though, in that the quality of beans at the time of sale has a bearing on the price that the farmer gets.
First though, let's consider the growing of cocoa. Cocoa is grown around the world in the equatorial region, and the yield of kilos per hectare varies depending on the region and country by a factor of two. How is it that some farmers can get 4000 kilos per hectare and others only 2000 kilos or less? Simply put, work input equals yield output. A neglected farm, where the only work done is at harvest, suffers the results of smaller yields. Well managed farms, with high-yielding cocoa tree varieties and proper farm management, will earn more. Fundamentally, the more work put into the cocoa farm, the better the income.
The main factors that affect number of kilos of beans harvested are:
- Number of trees per acre
- Productive age of trees
- Variety of cocoa
- Freedom from disease
- Soil amendments such as compost and fertilizer
- Localized growing conditions
- And even if the farmer does everything right, weather plays a role
For post-harvest work, the factors that affect price per kilo paid are:
- Proper harvest timing
- Culling of bad pods and beans
- Proper bean fermentation
- Further cleaning
- Proper drying
Consumer demand largely sets the price, and cocoa futures and commodity speculators move the short-term price around. Within the world market, the farmer has the most control over their farm gate revenue. If you as a consumer do your part to eat more chocolate, the farmer will be motivated by a higher demand to grow more on the acres they have and take better care to clean and dry their harvest.