Cocoa, a native to the Americas, was a valuable crop in the earliest South American cultures. The term cocoa originated from the Nahuatl word “cacahuatl”. Many believe that the plant first grew in the Amazon and upper Orinoco basins but the Mayans and the Aztecs eventually developed techniques to cultivate cocoa successfully. The plant was considered as a symbol of wealth for these civilizations and its beans were used as currency. Cocoa beans are the main ingredient for making chocolate.
Cocoa beans are produced in tropical zones around the Equator, where climate conditions are well suited for growing cocoa trees. About 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans come from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are by far the two largest producers of cocoa, accounting for more than 50 percent of the world´s cocoa. In 2016, the Ivory Coast alone produced approximately 1.6 million metric tons of cocoa beans. The nation is expected to produce almost 1.9 million metric tons of cocoa beans during the 2016/2017 crop year.