The world's production of raw cocoa has reached an annual total of upwards of 300,000 tons. The principal countries contributing to this grand total are, in the British Empire, the Gold Coast, and Trinidad and Grenada in the British West Indies; among foreign competitors, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, San Domingo, and San Thome. Minor producing countries within the British Empire are Jamaica and various other British West Indian islands, Nigeria, Ceylon, and the portion of the Cameroons now under British administration; among foreign competitors, Fernando Po, Java, Haiti, Cuba, the French Colonies (chiefly Guadeloupe and Martinique), Dutch Guiana, Belgian Congo, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, and Peru. The oldest producing countries are situated, of course, in the New World, the homeland of cocoa. Some of them, such as Mexico, have dropped out of the competition; others, such as Haiti, Dutch Guiana, and Martinique, have lost much of their old importance; others, notably Trinidad and Venezuela, have retained a firm hold on the world's markets although they have been beaten, as regards quantity of output, by newcomers. Besides continuing to rank as big exporters, Venezuela and Ecuador still have the honour of producing some of the finest quality cocoa in the world.
Roasting Cocoa Beans At J. S. Fry And Sons' Factory, Bristol
Among the newer producing countries, the Gold Coast, with its Dependency of Ashanti, Brazil, San Thome, and San Domingo, are famous for a phenomenal increase of production during the last quarter of a century, and the Gold Coast with Ashanti is at the top of this tree of fame.
As indicative of the relative positions of the cocoa-producing countries, here are the 1916 statistics. In studying them, remember it is estimated, by reliable authorities, that the increase of production in the Gold Coast and Ashanti since 1916 has brought the British Empire's total cocoa exports up to a figure which exceeds the total exports from foreign countries.
British Empire: Production of Raw Cocoa, 1916.
British West Indies:
British Honduras ..
Fiji .. .. ..
Total, British Empire ..
Foreign Countries : Production of Raw Cocoa, 1916.
Fernando Po .. .. ..
Belgian Congo .. .. ..
Other Foreign Countries
Total, Foreign Countries ..
You will notice that the British West Indian island of Trinidad is the second largest contributor to our Empire's output of cocoa. The exports from Trinidad steadily increased from about 1,000 tons in 1840 to 26,000 tons in 1910, and reached the record quantity of 31,315 tons in 1917. Much of the cocoa is grown by peasant proprietors on small holdings. But there are some large plantations, too, and these are amongst the best-managed estates in the cocoa-producing world. The planters are gentlemen farmers; the labourers include some West Indian negroes, whose forefathers came over in the slave ships from West Africa, but the majority of them are East Indian coolie immigrants. Plants are raised from selected seeds, and carefully tended in nurseries; seedlings are planted out at equal distances apart, about fifteen feet in all directions being the allotted growing space; crops, such as bananas, are interplanted to afford temporary shade, but however profitable these catch crops may prove they are removed as soon as necessary for the healthy development of the permanent crop; permanent shade-trees are interplanted at proper distances among the young cocoa; the cocoa-trees are pruned when they are about three feet high to encourage the growth of a pyramidal crown. All the work on the plantations is done systematically, and under the supervision of the planter or his assistants. Special attention is given to the important process of fermentation, for which there are specially built sweating-houses fitted with compartments; the beans are shovelled from one compartment to another, at regular intervals, to ensure even sweating. There are specially built drying-houses, too. Some of these are fitted with a sliding roof, easily adjustable for exposing the beans to the sun on a fine morning or for affording protection at night or on a rainy day. Others are shelters for large platforms, mounted on wheels which run on rails; the beans are spread out on these platforms, and can easily be moved, as desired, into the sunshine or back under cover.
In Trinidad, the European planters have always maintained a high tradition in producing a well-developed cocoa of uniform quality. Some of them cover their beans with a light sprinkling of clay or red earth, on the supposition that it hardens the shell and protects the bean from damp and mould.
As in Trinidad, cocoa is grown both on large plantations and on small holdings in all the producing islands of the British West Indies. The peasant proprietors have become good cocoa farmers, thanks largely to the instruction they receive from the Agricultural Departments, to the encouragement given them by means of prize-bearing competitions, and to the object-lessons of well-managed plantations in their midst.
Ceylon's contribution to our Empire's cocoa output varies considerably in quality. The well-prepared plantation beans are classed among the finest in the market, but lower grades are more commonly produced.
The chief producing areas are up country, in the neighbourhood of Kandy and Matale. Ceylon cocoa is washed during the process of preparation for market.
Nigeria, like its neighbour the Gold Coast, is one of the newest cocoa-growing countries. The areas of production are in the colony of Lagos and in the Southern Provinces of the Protectorate, the principal centres being Agege and Ibadan. Not only is Nigerian cocoa all grown by native farmers, but it is practically all marketed through the agency of native middlemen. In comparison with the Gold Coast, the cocoa industry of Nigeria is in its infancy as regards the marketing organization. Generally speaking, the output is of a low grade, inferior to average quality Gold Coast cocoa. But the quality of the present-day output must not be taken as evidence of Nigeria's possibilities as a competitor in the cocoa world. Here is some evidence which throws a broader light on the situation. In the neighbourhood of Agege there are several model farms, and not long ago the cocoa they turned out began to win a very good reputation as superior quality West African produce. We visit these farms, and can hardly believe we are in West Africa, so well are they laid out, equipped with sweating boxes and drying grounds, and provided with good roads. The model farmers, too, strike us as being exceptionally well educated and very much abreast with the times. One of them, a lawyer who has forsaken the Bar for the more remunerative business of cocoa growing, proudly shows us his fermenting boxes, and follows up an explanation of their virtues by telling us that he does not use them nowadays, because the world's shortage of foodstuffs has so raised prices that he can get as much money as he wants for his cocoa without taking the trouble to ferment it.
Grinding Cocoa At The Bournville Factory Op Cadbury Bros., Ltd
South America is the British Empire's most formidable competitor in the raw cocoa industry. Although it is generally admitted that the average quality of South American cocoa has much improved during recent years, it is frequently argued that our Empire should easily be able to maintain its newly won supremacy over South America in the cocoa world, such arguments being based on facts concerning the neglected state of the average cocoa plantations in the South American Republics. We know there is a great deal of truth in the disparaging facts that are put forward ; but we also know the South American Republics well enough to warn competitors that they are industrially formidable beyond the comprehension of anyone who has not had opportunities of getting wide firsthand knowledge and experience of their natural fertility, and of the miracle-working, progressive spirit of their people in this present stage of their development.
Prior to the war, the biggest purchasers of raw cocoa were, in order of importance, the United States, Germany, Holland, the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland. During the last few years the United States have been buying more and more cocoa, and their annual importation now exceeds half the world's production. The United Kingdom's purchases rose from 699,639 cwts. in 1913 to 1,158,160 cwts. in 1917.