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Page 28

The start of a heap fermentation in Ghana. Source: Wood (3).

The start of a heap fermentation in Ghana. Source: Wood (3).

though the reasons for this are not at all clear. This acidity is a defect, which has proved very difficult to eliminate from such cocoas, despite extensive, recent research on improved fermentation techniques.

Drying

After fermentation, the moisture content of the beans needs to be reduced from 55% to 7.5% an appropriate moisture content for secure storage of cocoa for a couple of months in the tropics. Smallholders lay the wet beans on raised bamboo mats or, less satisfactorily (for hygiene considerations), on concrete platforms on the ground in the villages. The drying beans would be covered at night or in the event of rain, watched for theft and be regularly turned during the day. The duration of drying depends on the weather, but it is unusual for sun-drying in West Africa to be completed in less than a week. Dull weather may extend it to 2 weeks or very occasionally more; after that length of time there would be a high risk of both surface and internal moulds developing on the beans. The care and sorting of the beans while they are drying tends to be the responsibility of the old and the young who remain in the villages during the day.

The best quality cocoa is always that produced when the beans have been fully dried (to about 7.5% moisture) in the sun, as happens in Ghana and most of the cocoa areas of Cote d'lvoire and Nigeria. However, in West Cameroon much of the crop is harvested in the middle of the wet season and artificial drying, by hot air, is essential. In Brazil and several other countries, the climate is such that artificial dryers are required for at least part of the crop. Smallholders in Malaysia and Indonesia are mostly able to dry their cocoa effectively in the sun, though the drying is also often undertaken by the local bean collectors who can use artificial dryers. However, on the estates in both countries, cocoa fermentation and drying tend to be a highly mechanized, rapid and very efficient

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