Cocoa Harvesting

Ripe cocoa pods, almost ready for harvesting

A heap of harvested cocoa pods

A split cocoa pod showing coffee beans (left) and pulp inner.

There are two harvests during the year. Harvesting of the main crop takes place from September to January and the secondary (or mid) crop is harvested from April to June. The secondary harvest accounts for about 10% of the total crop.

Pods are harvested every 2 to 4 weeks during the season.

The ratio of dried beans to pods is such that more than 25,000 pods will need to be harvested for every one tonne of marketable cocoa beans.

Only the mature pods are cut from the cocoa trees, with knives, machetes and hooks, avoiding any damage to the cocoa trees. The ripe cocoa pods are heaped at convenient points for subsequent splitting.

Harvesting activity takes place for 2 to 3 days at a time to build up a sufficient quantity of wet beans (normally in excess 50 kilos) for fermentation. A critical mass of cocoa beans is necessary to allow the fermentation process to progress properly.

The pods in the heaps are split with sticks, knives or machetes. The beans are scraped out either into a container or directly into the heaps or baskets for fermentation.

90% of cocoa plantations - Cameroon's most popular cash crop - are less than three hectares.

Click to see information about the fermenting process for cocoa beans