1. Prologue
  2. Plantations: Why?
    1. Types of Plantation crops
    2. Factor: Gestation
    3. Factor: Price shocks
  3. Cocoa
    1. Ghana, Cocoa Triangle
    2. Factor: Bean Processing


In the last three articles, we saw geographical factors that affect the location of timber and fish industry; Natural fibers: wool, cotton, silk and jute industry; Cereals: wheat, rich and corn; and finally milk, meat, poultry and pig rearing industry. Now let’s examine location factors for a few beverage and plantation crops viz. tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar and rubber. Disclaimer as usual: not covering everything.

Plantations: Why?

Factors responsible for development of plantations in Asia and America:

  1. Suez Canal was opened in 1869= this reduce the distance between Asia and Europe
  2. sail based ship were replaced with steam based ship=faster, more carrying capacity
  3. Industrial revolution= demand for rubber as eraser, waterproofing material+ consumer demand for tea, coffee, tobacco.
  4. imperialism:
    1. cheap labour = already available in colonies
    2. Capital/finance= provided by Europeans.

there is some difference in the origin of Asian vs. American plantations:

What’s the difference?
American plantations Asian plantations
usually owned by rich families Setup, Financed and controlled by commercial companies based in Europe.
was started with help of African slave labor. with help of locals + indentured laborers from India, China.

Types of Plantation crops

Three types based on relative maturation time and longevity of production

type character
  1. tree crops
  • lifecycle >2 years
  • take years to mature
  • remain productive for long period
  • oil palm, coconut, cocoa, rubber, coffee
  1. field crops
  • Need less maintenance than tree crops.
  • sugarcane, banana
  1. annuals
  • single planting, harvested within a year
  • cotton, jute, tobacco, groundnut

Factor: Gestation

  • Plantation of rubber, cocoa, coffee= need large scale investment, you will not see profit for many years, until the tree matures.
  • Such crops are unsuitable for small scale planter because he can’t afford to keep land unproductive for more than a year.
  • Annual crop are better suited for smallholder, they allow greater flexibility in planting followed by a harvest the same year. Hence plantation system has almost retreated from sub-tropics:  they instead grow tobacco/cotton.

Factor: Price shocks

  • Even when the commodity prices fall in the world market, the plantation owner must continue to operate, he cannot is rapidly switch to another crop.
  • On the other hand small scale farmers can grow an alternative crop to fetch them higher price. E.g. Many UP farmers have shifted to other crops.

Cocoa Plantations

  • Originally from Central and South America, associated with Aztec civilization.
  • Spanish brought it to Europe, but only after Europeans learned the art of chocolate making, cocoa demand increased.
  • Then Europeans introduced cocoa in West African countries.

Ghana, Cocoa Triangle

In Ghana, the triangular area between Takoradi, Kumasi and Accra towns has Concentration of cocoa plantations, hence called “Cocoa Triangle”.

soil, climate cocoa tree need warm wet climate, forest protection.Ghana being in the equatorial belt. So all conditions met.
labour need lot of  cheap laborers because

  1. cocoa fruits have to be manually cut with a machete.
  2. Since cocoa trees grown in jungle areas= have to manually carry it near the mainroad/railway line.

Ghana has abundant supply of cocoa-labourers known as Tumbadors.

transport/market Port of Takoradi and Tema.Mainly grown for export to US and dairy countries of Europe (Swiz, Den, Neth).

Factor: Processing

(just for information)

  • cocoa fruitpod=> pulp removed= you get 20-30 seeds from each pod
  • Seeds covered in banana leaves and allowed to ferment for a week=> sun dried.
  • Tropical damp climate = cocoa beans quickly lose flavor after roasting. Therefore, further processing done in the importing country (e.g. USA)
  • they roast the bean=>grind=> you get two products
    1. Powder: mix with sugar, milk & make chocolate.
    2. Cocoa-butter: used in cosmetics, cream-lipstick, pharmaceuticals etc.

So why does Ghana export cocoa-beans, why not finished products?

  1. Unlike USA, Ghana doesn’t have abundant supply of other ingredients of chocolate/confectionary items viz. milk and sugar. Even if Ghana imported milk/sugar from elsewhere to make chocolates, the final market is in US/Europe=> transport cost makes the industry @disadvantage.
  2. Ghana doesn’t have drug/cosmetic industry that can efficiently utilize by-product: cocoa-butter. (because drug/cosmetic industry require ‘skilled’ labour)

Ecuador used to be a major cocoa exporter but trees were plagued by fungal disease=> farmer switched to banana, coffee and sugar cane.
In the next article, we will discuss the graphical factors affecting the location of rubber plantations in Malaysia and India.