Tuesday, February 27Food Security Matters

Philippine Cacao Farming and Production Guide

Do you know that cacao farming in the Philippines is one of highly-profitable agribusiness? If you are here because you want to learn more about cacao farming, how it is grown and planted, and how cocoa is produced, you come to the right place. This article provides a basic cacao farming and production guide. If you need an in-depth cacao farming guide, download the official cacao production PDF guide from the Department of AgricultureĀ  (DA) library.

Introduction to Cacao Farming

Cacao farming can be an incredibly lucrative form of agricultural investment. From yield potential and regional climate to available resources and market outlets, many factors are integral to its successful implementation. To get started, the first step is to understand the basics of cacao production and the various techniques for ensuring a productive harvest. Consider the soil and climate in the region, the types of fertilizers to use, and the quality of seeds to plant. Additionally, proper pest control and harvesting techniques must be understood to ensure a successful yield. After the quality of the cacao fruits is assessed, the next step is to market and sell the product. By understanding the global markets and defining the competitive advantages available, cacao farmers can capitalize on the tangible financial gains associated with their investment.

cacao farm

What is Cacao

Cacao (scientific name: Theobroma cacao) is a tropical evergreen tree that is native to Central and South America and mainly found in the Amazon rainforest. The fruit of the cacao tree contains the seeds, or beans, that are used to make chocolate. In addition to being a popular food source, it is also cultivated for its economic value.

Cacao farming is an important industry for numerous countries, with the beans harvested for processing and export. The cacao plant must be grown in specific tropical regions and requires a humid, hot climate to flourish. There are three main varieties of cacao beans, each producing different chocolate flavors and qualities. The main types are Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. To get the highest yields, cacao farmers must have an understanding of the proper cultivation techniques.

Where to Plant Cacao

Cacao trees are tropical plants, so they require a warm and humid climate to thrive. When choosing a suitable location for planting cacao, temperature, and soil quality should be taken into account. Optimal temperatures range from 20 to 33 degrees Celsius, and the soil should be nutrient-rich, with good drainage. Cacao plants can also benefit from partial shade, especially from taller trees, which can protect from the intense heat of the sun. Additionally, cacao trees should be planted in an area with enough space for growth and development. Ideally, the spacing between plants should be 2 to 4 meters.

1. Choosing a Location

Choosing the right location to start your cacao farming operation is perhaps the most important decision you’ll make. The ideal location should have access to plenty of sunlight, adequate soil fertility, and ample water resources. Additionally, you will want to consider other aspects such as the availability of labor and the local climate. For instance, in tropical regions, you should research the potential for heavy rainfall and flooding, as this could affect the growth and yield of your cacao plants. Additionally, if you intend to sell your cacao at a local market, being close to a major population center can be beneficial. Researching the local climate and the cacao farming practices in the area can be of great help when selecting the ideal location for your venture.

2. Climate Considerations

The climate is an important consideration when it comes to cacao farming. The ideal environment for success should have plenty of sunshine, humidity, and a stable temperature. Generally, cacao grows best in temperatures of between 25-30Ā°C and above but can tolerate cooler temperatures if necessary. Cacao requires high levels of rainfall with an annual precipitation between 1,500-3,000 mm and a long wet season of three to six months. It is important to ensure the soil has enough moisture, both in the wet and dry seasons for the cacao to be successful. Good aeration of the land is also essential.

Preparing the Soil

1. Soil PH

Soil PH is an essential factor when it comes to successful cacao farming. Cacao trees require a neutral to acidic soil PH in order to thrive. If the soil is too alkaline, the trees will not receive the optimal amount of essential nutrients and minerals. When testing the soil PH of your cacao farm, the ideal range should be somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5. If the soil PH is too low or too high, it can be amended by adding either lime or sulfur respectively. Furthermore, highly acidic soils can also be amended by adding calcium or magnesium. It is important to note that cacao trees prefer to grow in well-drained, loose soils with plenty of organic matter. With the correct soil conditions and proper maintenance, cacao trees can thrive and produce a large number of quality cacao beans for financial gain.

2. Fertilizer

When it comes to cacao farming, the use of fertilizer is essential to ensure that the plants receive the nutrients they need for healthy growth. The type of fertilizer used should be appropriate for the soil type, as well as the pH level. A general-purpose fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can ensure balanced nutrient levels in the soil. Additionally, the fertilizer should contain micronutrients such as manganese, copper, and zinc, as these elements can help promote optimum growth. For optimal results, fertilizers should be applied to the soil at regular intervals throughout the growing season.

Cacao Farming: Planting and Growing Cacao

Before purchasing cacao seeds for planting, it is important to research the optimal soil and climate conditions for growing cacao in your area. When ready, cacao seeds should be planted 1-2 cm deep in a well-draining soil mix. The soil should be kept moist with frequent watering, and the cacao saplings should be given plenty of sunlight and shade as they grow. It is also important to fertilize the cacao as it grows, as fertilizers provide nutrients to give the plant a strong foundation. After approximately 5-7 years, the cacao tree will reach maturity, and the first beans can be harvested.

How to Plant Cacao Trees

When it comes to cacao farming, one of the most important steps is correctly planting cacao trees. It is essential to mimic the conditions of the natural environment to ensure the trees thrive.

  1. First, select a location with plenty of sun and a temperature of between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Make sure the soil is well-draining and has a neutral pH.
  3. When ready to plant, dig a hole that is twice the width of the tree’s root ball and just deep enough for the tree to sit comfortably.
  4. Place the tree inside and backfill the hole with dirt.
  5. Be sure to put a 6-inch layer of mulch around the base for protection.
  6. Water the tree generously and continue to do so for the first few weeks.

With the right conditions, your cacao tree will soon be flourishing.

Watering and Pruning Cacao Trees

Cacao trees need to be well-watered to ensure that they can grow and produce fruit. This can be done manually or through irrigation systems. Additionally, regularly pruning cacao trees helps to shape the tree, directs energy flow, and regulates fruit production. Pruning also helps to promote air circulation, allowing for better photosynthesis and encouraging healthier growth. Lastly, it is important to apply fertilizer to cacao trees to provide adequate nutrition and ensure that the soil remains in good condition. With the right care and attention, cacao farming can be a profitable venture with many financial gains.

Harvesting and Processing Cacao Beans

Harvesting and processing cacao beans are a vital part of cacao farming for financial gains. Careful harvesting and handling are essential for producing high-quality cacao beans that are marketable. Cacao plants produce fruits that contain beans, which must be carefully harvested by hand and separated from the pulp. After harvesting, the beans must go through a series of steps including drying, fermentation, and sorting, all of which involve techniques that need to be mastered by the farmer. Once the beans are processed, they can then be sold to the market and turned into a profit. Knowing the steps of harvesting and processing cacao beans is essential for successfully farming cacao.

Marketing Your Cacao Products

Marketing your cacao products is a key step in getting the most out of your cacao farming business. By developing a brand and directing advertising toward potential customers, you can increase your financial gains significantly. Consider creating a website that showcases your products, and use social media platforms to spread the word. Additionally, reach out to local businesses to see if they would be interested in carrying your products. With a strong marketing strategy in place, you will be sure to reap the financial rewards of your cacao farming venture.

Questions Related to Cacao Farming and Production

How profitable is cacao farming?

The price of cocoa fluctuates constantly but considering the very high demand for cacao, cocoa, and tablea in the Philippines, there is a potential for high profitability.

How long does it take for cacao to grow?

It takes about 4 to 5 years (from seed) for a cacao tree to grow mature and start producing cacao pods. The beans grow in football-shaped pods on the trunk of the tree and from larger branches.

Can cacao trees grow in the Philippines?

The first cacao in Asia was planted in the Philippines in 1670 while commercial farms developed in the 1950s. Production level reached 35,000 MT by 1990. However, production started to decline due to several factors such as weather and climatic conditions, pests and diseases infestation, and aging trees.

Where is the best place to grow cacao in the Philippines?

Davao is dubbed the Cacao Capital of the Philippines because of the region’s world-renowned quality of cacao. Home to the award-winning local chocolate producer, Malagos Chocolate, the Davao region is responsible for about 80 percent of the country’s cacao production.

Is there a shortage of cacao in the Philippines?

Local annual production of cacao is estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 tonnes, most of which is produced in the Davao region of Mindanao, the most southern island of the Philippines. Local consumption is 50,000 MT, so there is a shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes of cacao each year, which the country imports.

How many times can you harvest cocoa in a year?

Generally, cocoa farmers will start harvesting at the end of the rainy season, until the first few months of the dry season. There are two harvests a year: a main harvest (the biggest one) and a secondary harvest with lower yields.

How many cocoa trees are in 1 hectare?

A hectare of land can be planted with up to 1000 cacao trees.

How much is a kilo of cacao in the Philippines?

Cacao is sold as cocoa beans and the price is constantly changing from P119 to P150 depending on the season. The lowest was during the height of the pandemic in 2020 but recently, the price has stabilized by at least P135.

How many kilos of cacao per tree per year?

On average 10-12 pods give 1 kg of wet beans and 3 kg of wet beans (from 30-36 pods) give 1 kg of fermented and dried beans. Under normal cultivation practices, each cocoa tree yields about 1-2 kg annually.

What is the best cacao plant in the Philippines?

Villaflor of Callawa, Buhangin was named “Qualified Best Cacao Beans” in the Philippine Cacao Quality Awards (PCQA) 2022. The three of them will represent the Philippines in the Cocoa of Excellence of the International Cocoa Awards at Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2023.

What is the yield per hectare of cacao?

Generally, the average cacao yield can vary from 300 to 2,000 kg per hectare (268-17844 lb/acre), depending on the region, variety, agricultural practices applied, crop density, and the age of the trees.

What is cacao planting distance from each other if planted under coconut trees?

Cacao, a popular, stable, and marketable long-term beverage crop is widely planted under and between stands of coconut trees. To be a compatible and productive intercrop, the cacao tree is best planted not closer than 2 meters from the base of coconut trees, at 3 m between hills and 3 m between rows.

You may also check DA’s Cacao 2022 Roadmap


Cacao farming can be a rewarding endeavor for those looking to make a financial gain. With the proper climate, soil preparation, fertilizer, and cultivation techniques, you can have a successful crop of cacao beans. Understanding what is required to properly plant and care for a cacao tree is the key to ensuring a bountiful harvest. Once the beans have been harvested, knowing how to properly process and market them is essential for turning your cacao crop into a profitable venture. Overall, with dedication, patience, and persistence, cacao farming can provide you with a lasting and significant financial return.

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