This section is from the book "The Planting, Cultivation And Expression Of Coconuts, Kernels, Cacao And Edible Vegetable Oils And Seeds Of Commerce", by H. Osman Newland. Also available from Amazon: The Planting, Cultivation And Expression Of Coconuts, Kernels, Cacao And Edible Vegetable Oils And Seeds Of Commerce.
* Vailima Letters.
The birth and growth of the cacao industry in the Gold Coast reads like romance. Totteh Quarshie, of Christianburg, towards the end of the nineteenth century, brought a few beans from Fernando Po, where he had been working as a blacksmith. Planting them, and nursing the seeds, his little enterprise soon became profitable. Others soon imitated him. In 1891 the first shipment of about 80 lbs., valued at £4, was made to this country, since when it has leaped rapidly to about 80,000 tons, valued at about four millions sterling-more than a-third of the total cacao production of the world. Every pound has been grown by native farmers, and the family incomes of cacao-growers have been multiplied a hundredfold or more, many amounting to between one and two thousand pounds sterling yearly, a few being even larger. Cacao is now also being grown in Togoland, Cameroons, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the export of cacao has increased from 99,000 cwts., valued at £172,000, in 1914, to over 200,000 cwts., valued at about £400,000. Ibadan is the largest producing centre, and three native cacao instructors are employed in the Calabar and Abeokuta provinces and in the Agege district. In the first-named, cacao-planting competitions are encouraged by the Government. In the last-named, tests made with the Hamel Smith drying machine, to compare the effects of sun-drying and machine-drying, showed the percentage of alkaloids in the artificially-dried product to be 2.05 as compared with 1.92 in the sun-dried, but the cost was three times as great.
Owing to the restrictions upon the imports of cocoa into Europe during the war, the figures give no accurate estimate of the enormous growth of the cacao industry. We have, therefore, only given below the imports into New York during 1915-17 inclusive, which speak volumes :
Imported into New York- January-December.
All growths, Including-
St. Thome, .
Other African, Delivered for Consumption--
All growths, Including-
St. Thome, .
During the summer of 1918, however, the American Government placed restrictions on the importation of cocoa, licence to West African importers being refused owing to distance and tonnage difficulties, thus resulting in an embargo on the West African product. The British West African Association, by a deputation (of which the author was one) received by the American Embassy, obtained a modification of this embargo for 1919, thus saving the West African cacao industry from disaster.
The cacao tree grows to a height of from 12 to 25 feet. Three to six lateral branches are formed when it is but a few feet from the ground, but only when these are matured does a leader spring from the side. The leaves are large and undivided. The flowers are clustered and small, and seldom does more than one develop into fruit. The plant has a long taproot, and it succeeds best in a rich, deep, well-drained loam (or soil formed by the decomposition of volcanic rocks) in sheltered valleys with a southern or western aspect, 200 to 500 feet above sea level. In Trinidad, Cuba, and British Guiana it has been grown successfully on a lower level. Proximity to the seashore is said to be an advantage, but exposure to the direct influence of the sea-breeze is undesirable. The tree grows wild in the Central American forests, and varieties have been found in Jamaica and other West Indian islands, and in South America. The Mexicans and the Aztecs, when discovered by the Spaniards, both used the beans of the tree for currency side by side with gold ingots. The Spaniards also relate that as a sacred rite ' the blood of slain fowls was sprinkled over the land to be sown with the cultivated product' Possibly there was some connection with a similar practice which the author noticed in West Africa, around kola and cacao trees, and which a native chief informed him was to attract the red ant from infesting the trees.
The best known varieties of seed for planting purposes are the Criollo, Forastero, and Calabacilla.
The Criollo (" native ") is of average size with a " pinched ' neck and a curving point, light in colour and delicate in flavour. Their cotyledons are usually pale or white.
" Sierra Leone : Its People, Products, and Secret Societies," p. 55.
The Forastero (" foreign ") is long and deeply furrowed, but regular in shape and rough surfaced, flatter as a rule than the criollo. Their cotyledons are usually purple.
The Calabacilla (" little calabash ") is generally smooth and round. Otherwise there is little to distinguish it from the Forastero, the hardy character of which it also shares.
Where the Criollo and Forastero varieties are cultivated in close proximity, cross-fertilisation takes place between them, and the characters of each type may be found merged in the progeny. This is particularly noticeable in Ceylon. The seeds are either sown in a nursery or " at stake'
(The author participated in the planting of cacao in West Africa, both on a modern plantation, controlled by Europeans, and on a more primitive one maintained by a native chief. He was thus able to compare the two methods.)
The native practice was (and still is, where the Government have not succeeded in inducing the people to adopt newer methods), after felling the forest, to sow the seed " at stake ' in small patches at the beginning of the rainy season, in roughly prepared beds close to the water. Gaps are not filled, and two or three seeds are sown together, the weaklings being cut out not later than the second or third year. Even then the remaining plants are too close together-6 feet intervals being frequent-and often in very irregular lines; while the excessive shade caused by close planting often prevents the fruit from forming well, and sometimes produces rot, owing to want of evaporation of moisture. On the other hand, the dense foliage makes weeding unnecessary, and is therefore economical from this point of view.
In Grenada and British West Indies, where planting at stake is frequent, 8 feet of space only is given between each plant, thus forming a denser foliage and dispensing with any other shading. Five hundred trees to the acre can thus be raised, but the method is not so suitable to open valleys or plains as to hillside plantations.