Where do Cacao Trees Grow?
Posted by Jeff Stern on April 23, 2017
Where do cacao trees grow? Cacao, also known as Theobroma Cacao, is a tropical plant. The growing area for cacao ranges from approximately 10° north to 10° south of the Equator.
Most cacao is grown in Africa but cacao is now also cultivated in a tropical belt worldwide. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world’s top two producers, followed by Indonesia, Nigeria and Cameroon. Other producers include Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and many countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
Cacao originated in the Amazon basin thousands of years ago, and was originally cultivated by indigenous peoples in South and Central America and what is now Mexico. Columbus discovered cacao when he landed in the Americas, and the Spaniards helped spread the planting of cacao to other continents.
To grow and prosper, cocoa trees require a minimum temperature of about 68°F-70°F and a maximum of approximately 90°F, with substantial annual rainfall of 1250 mm to 3000 mm per year, with dry periods of no more than 3 months.
Cacao typically grows in shaded rainforest areas, but also grows well in open areas where there is a generally overcast climate but tropical conditions. In many parts of Ecuador cacao grows in clear cut areas with little or no shade cover, in the Amazon, the lower coastal plains, and near coastal areas. Seedlings up to about six months do require shade and are often cultivated in nurseries, where they are protected from direct sunlight. Young plants are also planted with banana plants, which provide shade while the young plants become established.
Cacao requires very specific climate conditions and will only grow and produce fruit when grown in its native habitat in the tropics. Cacao can be raised in a greenhouse or botanical garden, but will not produce fruits in artificial conditions.