At a Glance

  • Population: 27 million
  • Capital: Antananarivo 
  • Rural Population: 62%
  • Median Age: 20 years
  • Cocoa Production: 10,834 tons/year
  • Production ranking: 21st   

Map of Africa showing Madagascar off the east coast
Map of Madagascar

Image credit: Wikimedia

Innovative TSIRO alliance in Madagascar commits to conserving biodiversity and improving the livelihoods of over 2,000 small-holder cocoa and spice farmers

History of Cocoa

When and from where French colons introduced the cacao tree Theobroma cacao — the “fruit of the gods” — to Madagascar is open to speculation. A. Couraud, of the Institut Français du Café et du Cacao in Ambanja, writes in a 1969 article in Bulletin de Madagascar that the first cacao trees (cacaoyers) were introduced to “La Grande Ile” around 1900 from the Ivory Coast, another French colony in Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF). The trees were of the Criollo variety; and he states that about 10-15 years later, Forestero trees, called Tamatave, were introduced, perhaps from the Portuguese island of São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa (Couraud 1969).

Seven years earlier, L. Drussel, Chef du Service du Commerce Intérieur à la Direction des Affaires Économiques, wrote that in 1898 the Compagnie Agricole Nossibéenne received seeds originating from Colombia, and that Nossibéenne furnished all the cacao plants for plantations in Ambanja and Ambilobe. Still other researchers or administrators have suggested that French planters from the Indian Ocean island La Réunion may have been involved.

Notwithstanding the lack of agreement on cacao’s provenance, Trinitario beans, the main variety of Sambirano plantations today, are hybrids of the original Criollo and Forastero beans. 

(Source: Ellen Shnepel, 2017)

Flavor Attributes

If processed correctly, Madagascar cacao has the potential to produce dark chocolate with strong, bright red fruit flavors, hints of citrus, with a fair bit of acidity.

Farming Systems

Agroforestry system, with cacao intercropped with trees that produce shade, help trap humidity, and drop leaves which are nitrogen-fixing to soils. The canopy includes Albizia, Madagascar Almond, African Tulip, Glyricidia, as well as bananas, jack fruit, and citrus. Lower level crops in the systems can include vanilla, black and wild peppers. These integrated agroforestry systems also provide habitat for lemurs, birds and other unique biodiversity in Madagascar. 

Harvesting & Marketing

Most of Madagascar’s cacao is harvested wet and dried without fermentation. Some premium producers go through the work of fermentation before drying, and at least one farm-to-chocolate-factory company works with small-holder producers to ferment on-farm. 

HCP Designee in Madagascar

HCP #15: Akessons Bejofo Estate, Sambirano Valley, Madagascar

In 2018, Akesson’s earned HCP Designation.  Located in the Sambirano Valley, in the North-West of Madagascar, Bejofo Estate spreads over about 2000ha. Since 1920, it has produced world-famous aromatic cocoa, and today many of the top chefs & chocolate makers around the world use cocoa from this estate.  

The Genetic makeup of these beans are 71% Criollo.  When the HCP tasting panel evaluated flavor profile of Akesson’s Bejofo Estate cacao, they noted an immediate burst of fresh tart citric fruit with a center taste of a very mild cocoa, but immediately supplanted by the same nut note as in the aroma of the cacao. Throughout the taste profile, there is an overlay of a caramelized sugar/panella/sweet toffee note.  The criollo parentage certainly shows through!

Photo Credit: Bertil Akesson

Contacts in Country

Beyond Good (formerly Madecasse) Chocolate
Lot 01 A
Ambohibao Antehirorka
Antananarivo 105 
+1 917 382 2020
+261 34 17 833 03

Photo credits for this page unless otherwise stated:
Beyond Good Chocolate and Vanilla

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