Cocoa culture in Madagascar

Cocoa was first planted in the country by the French settlers at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, it is grown in the Sambirano Valley, in the Northwest of the country. The Sambirano river flows from the foothills of the country’s highest peak, the Mount Maromokotra (2’876m), irrigating the Sambirano Valley. It offers a hot and humid microclimate, required to produce cocoa, but also several other commodities such as coffee, vanilla, or pepper.

Although Madagascar is a small cocoa producer, it is known for the high quality of its beans which are sought after by many chocolate makers. The specificity of cocoa from Madagascar is that all 3 types Forestero, Trinitario and Criollo are grown together, which gives it its very particular flavour.

Production facts

The yearly cocoa production has slowly increased in the recent years, from 12’000 in 2014 to 16’000t[1] in 2022, and is estimated at about 13-14’000t today. It is produced during the whole year with two peak periods, July/August and December/January, even though it tends to be delayed in the recent years.

It is cultivated in very small farms (0.8 ha on average) by about 30’000 small farmers, who sell their production to collectors or sub-collectors and a very few cooperatives, who in turn sell it to exporters.

The yield remains stable and is more or less in line compared to most African countries.

The increase potential is rather limited by three main factors:

  • The geographical limitation of the area where cocoa can be grown
  • The non-use of fertilizers and pesticides
  • The absence of large-scale programs to boost the cocoa production and to replace ageing trees. Such programs exist only within the frame of sustainable projects.

Walter Matter in Madagascar

For the past 20 years, we have been one of the leading buyers of Malagasy cocoa. We purchase roughly 30% of its production. Thus, we have built strong relationships with reliable exporters and growers. Our good knowledge of the country, its agricultural landscape, and overall the confidence placed in us by our partners help us to accompany one of our clients, a major chocolate manufacturer, in a sustainable cocoa sourcing for the benefit of the farmers and their communities.

More specifically, since 2016, we facilitate the implementation of a program aiming at promoting good agricultural practices, which help to improve the productivity.

We also assist our suppliers in getting Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certifications. In addition, we closely support them to get ready for the EUDR and step-in the traceable certified and conventional cocoa supplying.

What about the historical market’s rise?

Cocoa market is experiencing an unprecedented situation. The steep decrease of West African production, combined to the stable demand have led to a price explosion.

According to Eric Bourgeois, Head of Cocoa Trading at Walter Matter, our very close relationship and cooperation with our historical Malagasy suppliers has enabled us to navigate together through these historically turbulent times. We are confident that they will continue providing us with high-quality and traceable beans, whatever the market’s movements.

[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


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