Sales, Trading, and Shipping Cocoa Beans 

Sales, Trading, and Shipping Cocoa Beans 
Cacao tree

Benjamin Akane

Agriculturist specialized in the Ghanaian Cocoa system

Share it:

Cocoa is sold to either Local Processing Companies or international grinders. New data from Ghana’s Cocobod (the agency coordinating the Cocoa production sector) showed that processing of the commodity from its raw form into other products has increased from 30% to about 34%. Ghana’s government is projecting to have about 50 percent of its cocoa processed into refined products such as Chocolate and Cocoa beverages. Cocoa beans that do not meet international requirements are typically sold to local grinding companies. Ghana’s cocoa grinding sector is dominated by a handful of multinationals and the former state-owned grinder, Cocoa Processing Company (CPC). Switzerland’s Barry Callebaut, the USA’s Cargill, and OLAM Processing Ghana Ltd vie for the top share of the grind, with capacities of 67,000 MT, 65,000 MT, and 43,000 MT, respectively.

Table 4: List of cocoa processing companies, installed and utilization capacities in Ghana (Tonnes) 2020.

No. Company Installed Capacity Utilized Capacity
1. Cocoa Processing Company (CPC)64,500.0028,486.17
2. Barry Callebaut67,000.0056,935.00
3. BD Associates32,000.0032,535.24
4. Niche50,000.0046,425.73
5. Cocoa Touton30,000.0028,289.46
6. Cargill65,000.0075,426.00
7. Olam43,000.0034,733.00
8. Plot32,000.0015,357.99
9. Wamco55,000.009,296.26
10. Real Products30,000.00
11. Afrotropics15,000.00
 Total 483,500.00 327,484.85

Source: Cocobod

Supply Chain Procedures 

The industry is 100% regulated by COCOBOD, and Cocoa is delivered to COCOBOD by LBC’s in two ways:

Primary Evacuation  

The LBCs use their own vehicles or outsource tractors/ trucks to transport the cocoa from the villages/ farm gates to the district depots or centers.

Secondary Evacuation  

The cocoa produce is transported from district depots or centers to designated centers known as Takeover Centres. To ease the congestion of trucks from the farm gates to the depots (or Takeover Centres), evacuation quotes are issued to the LBCs to regulate the specified number of a truck that each LBC sends to any takeover center each day.

The quality Control division (QDC) is invited to inspect the quality of the beans and ensure it complies with regulatory policies. LBCs receive the Cocoa Takeover Receipts (CTORs) after the Cocoa is handed over to the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC).

The competition among the LBCs to ensure that their produce reaches COCOBOD on time is comparatively high.

The calculation of the bonus and the distribution of the bonus to the cocoa farmers are perhaps the most innovative institutional arrangement to influence price stability and fairness within the cocoa chain. The Ministry of Finance states that farmers are protected from price falls, and only positive adjustments in the producer price are possible.

Trading & Shipping Cocoa Beans 

Regarding cocoa trading, a clear distinction must be made between actual or physical markets and futures or forward markets. Nearly all cocoa from originating countries is sold through the physical market. The physical market encompasses the type of transaction most people normally think of when discussing commodity trading. The structure and length of cocoa marketing channels vary from region to region within a producer country and also between producer countries. At one end of the spectrum, the marketing channel between cocoa farmers and exporters includes at least two intermediaries: small traders and wholesalers. The first buy cocoa beans directly from farmers and visit them individually. In a second step, the small buyers sell the beans to wholesalers, who in turn resell them to exporters. Conversely, cocoa beans are sold to exporters by farmer cooperatives or even exported directly by the cooperative. The former is typical of Ghana, where cocoa sales are made to the international cocoa market through at least two intermediaries, namely the LBCs and a subsidiary of COCOBOD, CMC.

 At the port

Cocoa beans are stored in warehouses once they arrive at the port of export, graded, and then loaded into cargo ships. Cement, non-flammable flooring without cracks or crevices where insects might hide should be used in warehouses. To avoid floods and enable water to drain away, the warehouse’s floor elevation should ideally be higher than the terrain nearby. Due to the high moisture content and wide variation in the quality of the beans, cocoa beans are sometimes treated in conditioning factories, most of which are housed in port warehouses. The process of manually or mechanically conditioning beans is also used to combine beans of different quality levels.

Cocoa Grading 

The countries that produce and use cocoa have different grading systems. The Federation of Cocoa Commerce Ltd. (FCC) and the Cocoa Merchants’ Association of America, Inc., the two major worldwide cocoa trade groups, have established standard standards that have evolved on the physical market (CMAA). For instance, the FCC separates cocoa beans into two grades: well-fermented beans and fair-fermented beans. Fewer than 5% mold, less than 5% slate, and less than 1.5% foreign material are required in well-fermented cocoa beans samples. Fewer than 10% mold, less than 10% slate, and less than 1.5% foreign material are required in a fairly fermented cocoa beans sample. The so-called cut test is used to conduct these tests. In such a test, a specified quantity or weight is counted off a specified quantity or weight of cocoa beans, evaluating them after being split lengthwise through the center. The number of moldy, slat, insect-damaged, germinated, or flat beans are counted separately.


After being graded and put onto cargo ships, cocoa beans are shipped in fresh jute bags or bulk. Since it can be up to 1/3rd less expensive than standard shipping in jute bags, shipping cocoa beans in bulk has gained favor in recent years. The so-called “mega-bulk” approach is used to load loose cocoa beans into either shipping containers or the ship’s hold. The largest cocoa processors frequently use the latter mode.

Cocoa Futures Contract 

A promise to deliver or take delivery of a specified amount and quality of cocoa beans at a predetermined location and time in the future is known as a cocoa futures contract. Typically, cocoa futures contracts are used to reduce the risk of unfavorable price changes rather than to guarantee the supply of cocoa beans. All contract conditions are uniform and predetermined. As a result, cocoa futures contracts are interchangeable, except for delivery time. Cocoa futures contracts can currently be exchanged at ICE Futures U.S. (New York), ICE Futures Europe (London), and CME Europe (London).

Before March 2015, only British pounds sterling and U.S. dollars were used to quote cocoa futures contracts. Although a third of the world’s cocoa production is processed in the Eurozone, nearly half of the traded cocoa comes from Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Togo (whose currencies are pegged to the Euro). As a result, new Euro-denominated contracts were introduced in March 2015, reducing the need for the cocoa trade to hedge against foreign exchange risks. Cocoa futures contracts now support the three currencies.

These regulated markets offer the infrastructure and trading platforms needed to connect buyers and sellers. They also establish and enforce rules to guarantee that trading occurs in a free-flowing market. Due to this, all offers and bids must be submitted electronically through the exchange’s “Clearing House” using the order-entry trading system. Because of this, the Exchange’s Clearing House serves as both the buyer and the seller to all sellers and purchasers.

Participants in the futures market can be divided into two categories: commercial (i.e., hedgers) and non-commercial traders (i.e., speculators). Commercial traders are market players who make counterbalancing trades in the futures market in an effort to prevent or minimize a potential loss in the cash market. In contrast, non-commercial traders put their own money at risk by trading futures in a product they do not manufacture or use in the hopes of profiting from price fluctuations.


Abara, I. O., and Singh, S. (1993). Ethics and biases in technology adoption: The small-firm argument. Technological Forecasting and Social Change43(3-4), 289-300.

Adamu, C. O. (2018). Analysis of access to formal credit facilities among rural women farmers in Ogun State, Nigeria. Nigeria Agricultural Journal49(1), 109-116.

Adu-Asare, K. (2018). Cocoa farming business, financial literacy and social welfare of farmers in Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana (Doctoral dissertation, University of Cape Coast).

Ahenkorah, Y. (1981). Influence of environment on growth and production of the cacao tree: soils and nutrition. In Actes, Douala, Cameroun, 4-12 Nov 1979/7 Conference internationale sur la recherche cacaoyere= Proceedings, Douala, Cameroun, 4-12 Nov 1979/7 International Cocoa Research Conference. Lagos, Nigeria: Secretary General, Cocoa Producers’ Alliance, 1981.

Akudugu, M. A., Guo, E., and Dadzie, S. K. (2012). Adoption of modern agricultural production technologies by farm households in Ghana: what factors influence their decisions?

Ali, E. B., Awuni, J. A., and Danso-Abbeam, G. (2018). Determinants of fertilizer adoption among smallholder cocoa farmers in the Western Region of Ghana. Cogent Food & Agriculture4(1), 1538589.

Ameyaw, G. A., Dzahini-Obiatey, H. K., and Domfeh, O. (2014). Perspectives on cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD) management in Ghana. Crop Protection65, 64-70.

Aneani, F., Anchirinah, V. M., Owusu-Ansah, F., and Asamoah, M. (2012). Adoption of some cocoa production technologies by cocoa farmers in Ghana. Sustainable Agriculture Research1(1), 103.

Bonabana-Wabbi, J. (2002). Assessing factors affecting adoption of agricultural technologies: The case of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Kumi District, Eastern Uganda (Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech).

Danso-Abbeam, G., Addai, K. N., and Ehiakpor, D. (2014). Willingness to pay for farm insurance by smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana. Journal of Social Science for Policy Implications2(1), 163-183.

Dormon, E. V., Van Huis, A., Leeuwis, C., Obeng-Ofori, D., and Sakyi-Dawson, O. (2004). Causes of low productivity of cocoa in Ghana: farmers’ perspectives and insights from research and the socio-political establishment. NJAS: Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences52(3-4), 237-259.

Doss, C. R. (2006). Analyzing technology adoption using microstudies: limitations, challenges, and opportunities for improvement. Agricultural economics34(3), 207-219.

Giovanopoulou, E., Nastis, S. A., and Papanagiotou, E. (2011). Modeling farmer participation in agri-environmental nitrate pollution reducing schemes. Ecological economics70(11), 2175- 2180

Hailu, E., Getaneh, G., Sefera, T., Tadesse, N., Bitew, B., Boydom, A., … and Temesgen, T. (2014). Faba bean gall; a new threat for faba bean (Vicia faba) production in Ethiopia. Adv Crop Sci Tech2(144), 2.

International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), (2008). Manual on pesticides use in cocoa. ICCO Press releases of 10 June 2008 by ICCO Executive Director Dr. Jan Vingerhoets. International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), London.

Kehinde, A. D., and Tijani, A. A. (2011). Effects of access to livelihood capitals on adoption of European Union (EU) approved pesticides among cocoa producing households in Osun State, Nigeria. Agricultura Tropica et Subtropica54(1), 57-70.

Khanna, M. (2001). Sequential adoption of site‐specific technologies and its implications for nitrogen productivity: A double selectivity model. American journal of agricultural economics83(1), 35-51.

Kongor, J. E., Boeckx, P., Vermeir, P., Van de Walle, D., Baert, G., Afoakwa, E. O., and Dewettinck, K. (2019). Assessment of soil fertility and quality for improved cocoa production in six cocoa growing regions in Ghana. Agroforestry Systems93(4), 1455-1467.

Kumi, E., and Daymond, A. J. (2015). Farmers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of the Cocoa Disease and Pest Control Programme (CODAPEC) in Ghana and its effects on poverty reduction. American Journal of Experimental Agriculture7(5), 257-274.

MoFA, 2010. Production of major crops in Ghana, PPMED, Accra, 12 pp.

Namara, R. E., Horowitz, L., Nyamadi, B., and Barry, B. (2011). Irrigation development in Ghana: Past experiences, emerging opportunities, and future directions.

Nandi, R., and Nedumaran, S. (2021). Understanding the aspirations of farming communities in developing countries: a systematic review of the literature. The European Journal of Development Research33(4), 809-832.

Ngala, T. J. (2015). Effect of shade trees on cocoa yield in small-holder cocoa (Theobroma cacao) agroforests in Tabla, Centre Cameroon (Doctoral dissertation, Thesis, crop sciences. University of Dschang, Cameroon).

Ofori-Bah, A., and Asafu-Adjaye, J. (2011). Scope economies and technical efficiency of cocoa agroforesty systems in Ghana. Ecological Economics70(8), 1508-1518.

Ogunsumi, L. O., and Awolowo, O. (2010). Synthesis of extension models and analysis for sustainable agricultural technologies: lessons for extension workers in southwest, Nigeria. Agriculture and Biology Journal of North America1(6), 1187-1192.

Okojie, L. O., Olowoyo, S. O., Sanusi, R. A., and Popoola, A. R. (2015). Cocoa farming households’ vulnerability to climate variability in Ekiti State, Nigeria. International Journal of Applied Agriculture and Apiculture Research11(1-2), 37-50.

Okyere, E., and Mensah, A. C. (2016). Cocoa production in Ghana: trends and volatility. International Journal of Economics, Commerce and Management, 5 (3), 462-471.

Opoku-Ameyaw, K., Oppong, F. K., Amoah, F. M., Osei-Akoto, S., and Swatson, E. (2011). Growth and early yield of cashew intercropped with food crops in northern Ghana. Journal of Tropical Agriculture49, 53-57.

Oyekale, A. S. (2012). Impact of climate change on cocoa agriculture and technical efficiency of cocoa farmers in South-West Nigeria. Journal of human ecology40(2), 143-148.

Wessel, M., and Quist-Wessel, P. F. (2015). Cocoa production in West Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments. NJAS: Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences74(1), 1-7.

World Bank (2011). Supply Chain Risk Assessment: Cocoa in Ghana. Ghana Cocoa SCRA Report.

World Bank. 2007. World development report 2007: Development and the next generation. Washington D.C.: World Bank.

Wossen, T., Berger, T., Mequaninte, T., and Alamirew, B. (2013). Social network effects on the adoption of sustainable natural resource management practices in Ethiopia. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology20(6), 477-483.

( Dohmen, et al. 2018)  Temperature changes, drought, and prolonged dry season affect the flavor and overall quality of the product

(Neilson, 2007) Unlike Farmers in West Africa, Cocoa farmers in Latin America tend to ferment the cocoa pulp surrounding the beans using wooden boxes. In Indonesia, farmers rarely take part in the fermentation process because their production is valued mostly for cocoa butter which is unaffected by fermentation

Cacao production: Challenges and Management Strategies
Cacao Variety Selection and Propagation
Cacao Soil requirements and Planting distances
Water needs and Irrigation of Cacao
Cacao Fertilization and Nutrient Requirements
Cacao Plant Protection – Major Stresses, Disease and Pest of Cacao
Cacao tree Pruning
Yield, Harvest, Handling and Storage of Cacao
Sales, Trading, and Shipping Cocoa Beans


We join forces with N.G.O.s, Universities, and other organizations globally to fulfill our common mission on sustainability and human welfare.