Last weekend, i had the opportunity to visit a cocoa farmer near me in the town of Kabimbiri, a cocoa veteran called Mr. Henry Lwanga
Lwanga and his family have been growing cocoa for over 10 years, from his great grand parents, to his parents and now he and his kids are growing cocoa. In Uganda, few farmers grow cocoa as most people think the crop is not economically viable. Uganda has an estimated 20,000 hectares of land under cocoa cultivation, mostly in the country’s west and central regions, and the crop supports about 10,000 households.
In 2015, cocoa ranked 4th in Uganda’s exports, with an increase of more than 30billion from the previous year. Currently, the farm gate price for cocoa is 3,000Ugx, per kg while for dry beans its 8,000Ugx. However, cocoa prices fluctuate widely and economic hardship occurs when prices are low.
The Government of Uganda, through the Cocoa Developmet Project, is trying to develop the industry by distributing seeds and new plants to farmers who would like to begin the cultivation of cocoa, or would want to expand their plantations.
Mr Lwanga is the representative of ICAM Chocolate Uganda in his area and receives/buys fresh beans from outgrowers as well as adding value to the cocoa to some extent. On site, he was over 40 fermentation boxes and a drying area. When the cocoa arrives (either from his gardens or outgrowers), fresh beans are fermented for 7-8 days in local constructed boxes before being moved to the drying beds (also located built solar driers). Here, they stay to dry in order to develop that chocolate taste we so love. Would it be easier if the beans went straight to drying? i asked. Well, if we did that, then that chocolate flavour would be lost.
At the drying beds, Mr Lwanga employs local staff who manually go through the beans, picking out the waste and leaving the fresh beans that will be packed and sent to Italy for the rest of the value chain. Already, there is potential for improvement of the chain right from the beginning, from the seedlings (which Mr Lwanga sells) to the picking of cocoa beans at the drying posts.
List of Cocoa Products by bi-product
Products from cocoa beans
Once the beans have been fermented and dried, they can be processed to produce a variety of products. These products include:
- Cocoa butter – Cocoa butter is the oily liquid obtained by pressing ground roasted cocoa nibs. Cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate. It is also widely used in cosmetic products such as moisturizing creams and soaps.
- Cocoa powder – Cocoa powder is the dry residual solid mass from cocoa butter production. Cocoa powder can be used as an ingredient in almost any foodstuff. For example, it is used in chocolate flavoured drinks, chocolate flavoured desserts such as ice cream and mousse, chocolate spreads and sauces, and cakes and biscuits. Tannin extracted from cocoa powder has been shown to be effective against tooth plagues and at the same time improve the gingival health. Hence, it can be used as active ingredient in cocoa tannin gel toothpastes (Azila et al. 2007).
- Chocolates – Chocolate is used as a product on its own or combined with other ingredients to form confectionery products.
- Mulch – Cocoa bean shells can be used as organic mulch and soil conditioner or it could be blended with pelletized cocoa pod husks for use as animal feed.
Products from cocoa pod husks
- Animal feed – Pelletized dried cocoa pod husk can be used as animal feed (Alexander et al. 2008, Aregheore 2002). The animal feed is produced by first slicing the fresh cocoa husks into small flakes and then partially drying the flakes, followed by mincing and pelleting and drying of the pellets. In powdered form, cocoa husks can also be used as fish (Tilapia) feed.
- Potash – Cocoa pod husk ash is used mainly for soft soap manufacture (Taiwo et al. 2001), but may also be used as fertilizer. To prepare the ash, fresh husks are spread out in the open to dry for one to two weeks. The dried husks are then incinerated in an ashing kiln.
- Gum – Cocoa pod gum is extracted from cocoa pod husks by alcohol precipitation (Figuiera et al. 1994, Samuel 2006). Cocoa pod gum can be used as binder in the food and pharmaceutical industries for binding pet food, emulsifiers, pharmaceutical pills, etc.
- Fertilizer – Cocoa pod husk could also be used as fertilizer for food crops production (Oladokun 1986).
Products from cocoa pulp (or sweatings)
- Production of soft drinks and alcohol – In the preparation of soft drinks, fresh cocoa pulp juice (sweatings) is collected, sterilized and bottled. For the production of alcohol or alcoholic drinks such as brandy, the fresh juice is boiled, cooled and fermented with yeast. After 4 days of fermentation the alcohol is distilled.
- Pectin – Pectin for jam, jelly and marmalade is extracted from the sweatings by precipitation with alcohol, followed by distillation and recycling of the alcohol in further extractions.
One strategy to increase income for cocoa growers is to identify and commercialize new cocoa-based products in addition to the cocoa seed crop.Value added processing of cocoa and cocoa by products in Uganda could significantly increase the income generating capacity of the industry. In addition to unrefined and refined chocolate cocoa butter cocoa wastes such as pod husks, pulp and by products from cocoa butter can be commercially processed to produce a variety of value added products. By making additional use of the cocoa bean and use of the residue of the cocoa manufacturing process, these products can be processed and marketed locally, providing employment and income for rural communities in addition to the food industry.
Cocoa pod husk poses a serious waste disposal problem in most cocoa producing countries. Yet, several promising commercial products can be obtained from these cocoa byproducts (Figueira et al. 1993). Cocoa pod husk can be transformed into animal feed, potash (used for soft soap making) and pod gum (used as binder in the pharmaceutical industry) while cocoa pulp or sweatings can be used for making juice, soft drink, alcohol and pectin (for jam, jelly and marmalade).
Although Africa supplies nearly three quarters (73%) of the world’s cocoa, consumption of cocoa beans in all of Africa put together is only 3% (Pipitone, 2012), mainly because of the high price of the (mostly imported) finished cocoa products such as chocolates. Making chocolate products affordable to the rural farming communities by producing chocolate from cocoa beans locally using simple recipes for home-made chocolate, creates potential for Uganda’s cocoa industry’s growth.