Support to the development of aromatic cocoa production in Ivory Coast

As part of our intervention in Ivory Coast for the French chocolate maker CEMOI, we supervised during three years the production of aromatic cocoa for its Ivorian subsidiary. The objective was to organize and develop, in partnership with cooperatives, the production of cocoa of superior quality with a particular aromatic profile offering fruity and floral notes. The program was based on the control of post-harvest operations (fermentation and drying). These operations were carried out in cocoa processing centers built and managed by CEMOI's teams. Our mission consisted in:

 

  • Supervising the operation and maintenance of the centers, to master the compliance with quality criteria and to manage the teams in place (58 technicians);

 

  • Managing the relations with cooperatives. More particularly, in order to ensure sufficient supply of centers to fulfill our customers’ orders, we managed the granting and recovery of cash advances for cocoa purchase as well as the maintenance of equipment and fleet of transport vehicles;

 

  • The diffusion of Good Agriculture Practices integrating agroforestry;

 

  • Organizing the technical support (training, access to inputs, etc.) of the producers and cooperative managers;

 

  • Supporting Cemoi's team for the relations with customers in relations with CSR activities;

 

  • The representation and promotion of the program in Ivory Coast.

 

Production cacao Côte d'Ivoire-Parcelles taillée-Djangobo
Production cacao Côte d'Ivoire-Cacaoyère à Adjaméné

Demonstrate that it was possible to produce "fine" cocoa in Ivory Coast if the fermentation of the beans and their drying is under control:

CEMOI group, which has been closely linked to the Ivory Coast for a long time, has always promoted the production of high quality cocoa. Such cocoa combining specific aromatic profile and a strict compliance with physico-chemical and sanitary standards is used for fine chocolates market which allows to pay a higher price to the producers.

The production of such cocoa requires the control of harvesting, fermentation and drying of the cocoa beans. Based on the experience acquired with KAOKA in Ecuador, CEMOI initiated the production of an aromatic cocoa under the “Fresh Cocoa” project. This project was based on four principles:
 

  • The collection of fresh cocoas beans;

  • Their fermentation and drying in processing centers under CEMOI's control;

  • A technical support to producers;

  • A collaboration between the producers who ensure the harvesting and shelling operations, the cooperatives which collect the fresh beans from their members and CEMOI which built and operate the centers where its agents realize the fermentation and drying of the beans for the account of cooperatives.

 

Quickly joined in 2010 by two other chocolate makers within PACTS (Processor Alliance for Cocoa Traceability and Sustainability), a "fine cocoa" production chain was developed. In 2016, 17 fermentation centers collaborated with thirty-two cooperatives that supplied them with fresh beans. Aromatic cocoa production reached 3,000 tons.

An eighteenth center was set up in 2014 on a similar model by CEMOI in collaboration with the Belgian chocolate maker PURATOS.

Stay close to cocoa producers:

The development of the aromatic cocoa production chain required the involvement and active participation of producers. Indeed as selling fresh beans goes against habits, it was necessary to convince producers of the interests of such change. In addition to a price at least 20% higher than the official purchase price, the sale of fresh beans enabled producers to get their money faster after harvesting, to reduce post-harvest works and to '' eliminate the risk of loss during fermentation and drying operations. Technical support for planters, access to inputs and support for their cooperatives completed the package of services delivered by PACTS.

In return for the significant premium paid for the fresh cocoa, the producers had to respect the recommended technical itinerary and particularly:
 

  • To harvest the pods at right maturity and break pods within a maximum of 7 days. Only healthy pods could be used for fresh cocoa;

  • To sort out the beans when breaking pods. The black beans and impurities should be removed. Beans have to be detached from the rachis.

To strengthen relations with producers, an agronomist was assigned to each processing centers. His roles were to:

  • Identify producers and their plots (using GPS devices);

  • Monitor cropping operations, advise producers and supervise their training to Good Agricultural Practices through farmers school fields;

  • Organize the production of improved variety cocoa plants;

  • Select cocoa trees in farmers' plots that demonstrate interesting genetic potential, as for their potential of production, their resistance to diseases and the aromatic profile of their beans. These “elite” trees were used to create a clonal garden in each center. The objective of these libraries was to preserve the diversity of the genetic heritage of the Ivorian orchard and to provide the base for a multiplication of these clones by grafting. This action was stopped following the ban of cocoa grafting in Ivory Coast.

Production cacao Côte Ivoire affiche plantation-PACTS Niafuta
Production cacao CôteIvoire-Technicien et planteur
formation producteurs cacao-centre Puratos Adjaméné
Production cacao Côte Ivoire-pépinière centre CEMOI de Zegban

Quickly transport fresh beans toward centers: a crucial factor for the success of an aromatic cocoa production chain:

It is essential that the fresh beans arrive at the processing center no later than 12 hours after the pods were broken. This implies that the cooperatives have a fleet of vehicles (3-ton trucks, scooters, motorcycles, tractors ...) suitable for picking up the beans in the villages. A permanent dialogue between the agents of the processing centers, cocoa producers and cooperatives was necessary to plan the collection of the beans at the right time.

The collection of fresh beans takes place 3 days a week. Centers provided bags used exclusively for the transport of fresh cocoa. Each bag was identified with the farmer's name and code. Farmers broke the pods in the morning and the bags were sent to collection point at the end of the morning. They were then collected by the cooperative and sent to the fermentation center in the afternoon.

Thus, the centers received  the beans within the day. A representative of the cooperative and planters accompany the truck.


Soon at arrival, a visual control was carried out to check that the beans were conformed to the quality criteria. These were clearly explained to the producers from the beginning of project.


Beans were then weighed in the presence of a commercial agent of the cooperative. He issued the receipt that allowed producers to be paid. PACTS ensured by granting revolving cash advances to cooperatives, that producers were paid on the day of delivery and at the fixed price posted in the centers..

production cacao aromatique Côte d'Ivoire-récolte des cabosses
Production cacao aromatique Côte d'Ivoire-Chantier ecabossage
Production de cacao aromatique en Côte d'Ivoire-séparartion fèves des rachis
production cacao aromatique Côte d'Ivoire-information aux producteurs

The fermentation centers: the heart of this aromatic cocoa production chain:

Once weighed, the beans are unloaded into wooden boxes. The fermentation begins. It will conduct to the elimination of the pulp around the beans and induce the development of the aromatic precursors. Process will last 6 days and will have 2 distinct phases:

  • an anaerobic fermentation that lasts 48 hours during which the sugars contained in the pulp turn into alcohol. At the end of this first phase, the beans are transferred to a second box below. This transfer is accompanied by a stirring. Stirring is essential as it will help the oxygenation of the mass of beans. Oxygen will stop the alcoholic fermentation;

  • an acetic fermentation will transform the alcohol into vinegar (acetic acid). During this reaction, the temperature of the mass rises high. Monitoring the temperature curve during fermentation is one of the criteria for verifying that the process runs correctly. Acetic fermentation must take place under aerobic conditions. To ensure good oxygenation of the whole mass of beans, a third brewing takes place on the fifth day morning. The beans are transferred to a third and last box located below the previous box to help that stirring.

On the morning of the seventh day, the box is emptied and the beans are spread in a thin layer on racks under tarpaulin solar dryers, specially designed to create a venturi flow under the tarpaulins and speed up the drying of the beans. The drying may last between 7 to15 days depending on weather conditions. When the air humidity is high, especially in the rainy season, the beans are transferred to a hot air dryer. Throughout the drying, the beans are turned over and rubbed to remove impurities, pulp residues, flat or too small beans, avoid the formation of "beans clusters" and the development of mold.

Production de cacao Aromatique Côte d'Ivoire-réception  fèves fraiches
Production cacao Côte d'Ivoire-réception fèves fraiches-Toliasso
Prodction caco Côte Ivoire-réception fèves fraiche-Wagana
Production cacao Côte d'Ivoire
Production cacao aromatique Côte Ivoire-fèves en caisse de fermentation
Production cacao aromatique Côte d'Ivoire-caisse fermentation stade 1
Production cacao Côte d'Ivoire- Brasse des fèves en fermentation
Production cacao Côte d'Ivoire-fin fermentation fèves

Set up important infrastructures to master the fermentation and drying of cocoa beans:

The organization of this aromatic cocoa sector required the building of significant infrastructures. A typical cacao fermentation center included:
 

  •  a hangar housing the reception area;

  • 12 series of 3 cascades with a capacity of 800 kg each, which gave each center a maximum processing capacity of 9,600 kg, three times a week. That is nearly 29 tons of fresh beans per week;

  • 8 to 10 solar dryers;
  • a hot air dryer linked to a wood burner;

  • 2 cocoa stores and a store for fertilizers and phytosanitary products;
  • a power generator;

  • weighing and quality control equipment;
  • a meeting room for planters and toilets. Some centers were equipped with a water forage or a well supplying a water tower accessible to the surrounding populations;

  • areas planted with trees (Acacias and eucalyptus) to supply the hot air dryer in firewood.
production cacao Côte d'Ivoire-Centre de fermentation de Songan
proucion cacao Cote d'Ivoire- séchoirs Toliesso
production cacao Côte 'Ivoire-Sechage fèves
production cacao Côte d'Ivoire-Séchage à air chaud

Quality controls and traceability complete the organization of the aromatic cocoa supply chain:

After drying, a quality control of each batch was carried out. It consists of :
 

  • A control of the smell, color and taste of dried beans;

  • A measure of the beans count;

 

  • A cutting test to determine the rates of well-fermented beans, slate and purple beans, moldy, moth-damaged, broken or flat beans.


The beans were then put in hessian bags and stored in the center warehouse before shipment, by the cooperative to the CEMOI purchasing center.


A follow-up sheet accompanies the batch throughout the process. The dates of each operations as well as the parameters are noted. It guarantees the traceability of the cocoa produced. PACTS was able to provide its customers with a list of the planters who had supplied the cocoa loaded in each container shipped.

cacao aromatique Côte d'Ivoire-Test de coupe.