More to cocoa than the bean
A project for the processing of cocoa by-products could significantly increase the income-generating capacity of the industry in cocoa-producing countries. Cocoa wastes, such as the husks, pulp and by-products from cocoa butter, are being commercially processed to produce a variety of 'added-value' products such as cattle feed, fertilizers, food products and soap. By making use of the residue of the cocoa manufacturing process, these products can be processed and marketed locally, providing employment and income for rural people.
Using cocoa pods from three large plantations in Ghana and experimental plots at the Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG), added value products have been processed and marketed during a pilot project financed by The Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod).
Dried animals feed pellets formed from sliced fresh husks have been used quite successfully as a substitute for wheat bran to feed to pigs and rabbits. However, it was found that the need for quick processing and fast drying (to avoid rotting and loss in nutritional value) imposed severe limitations on production. Preliminary findings have indicated that processing on-farm would not be profitable on very small farms (< 5 ha). Cost also becomes a major factor when a processor has to buy and collect husks from other farms. An alternative is for farmers to slice fresh cocoa husks for mixing with dry feed ingredients, which is then milled and fed directly to pigs. This is currently being trialled as an alternative.
In Cameroon, the piscicultural research unit of IRAD (Institute of Agricultural Research for Development) has also developed a fish food partially made from powdered cocoa husks. This protein-rich, inexpensive feed supplement has been demonstrated to be a suitable feed alternative for tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) which is currently considered one of the most promising fish for small-scale producers. Typical tilapia food (a blend of cornmeal, wheatbran and rice) is usually expensive - 35 US cents/kilo. However, the cost drops to 2 US cents/kilo if powdered cocoa husks replace 200 grams of the feed.
To make potash, fresh husks are sun-dried and then incinerated in an ashing kiln. Although the potash can be used as fertiliser, the majority of potash produced from cocoa husks in Ghana has been used for soft soap manufacture. Production of potash is a labour-intensive activity, which makes it uneconomical for farms located in remote areas but increasing demand has made production a viable process provided that a minimum quantity of fresh pod husks (15 tonnes) is processed.
Fresh cocoa pulp juice, known as sweatings, has been used in the production of pectin, jelly, soft drinks and alcohol. All the pectin used by the food industry in Ghana is currently imported so the potential for cocoa pectin has stimulated many enquiries from local manufacturers of marmalade, jam and jelly. The production of alcohol seems to be particularly viable with over 660 litres of technical grade alcohol being sold in September 1998.
Although cocoa butter is widely used in cosmetics around the world, little is actually produced in most West African cocoa producing countries. Fat extracted from beans from diseased pods or beans that have germinated during drying has been used to make soap and pomade (cold cream). The production of pomade has been particularly successful and has already been promoted in the US and Canada. Current production is relatively small-scale but potential interest in the products could lead to an increase in output.
A complete economic and feasibility analysis of these agro-processing trials is still being evaluated after CFC granted a one-year extension to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana in 1998. Preliminary findings have indicated, as above, that some of these products are viable and that the technology could be adopted by other West African cocoa-producing countries wishing to add extra value to cocoa. In Ghana, however, the majority of cocoa is produced by peasant farmers scattered over a wide area, much of which is inaccessible by road. It is, therefore, quite difficult to organise collection of cocoa pods, husks and sweatings from small farms for commercial production of by-products. It is therefore unfortunate that the farmers that are most in need of extra income are unlikely to be able to benefit from these added value technologies.