The cocoa tree is a native of the Amazon basin and other tropical areas of South and Central America, where wild varieties still grow in the forests, but the cocoa growing area has extended to the Carribbean and beyond.
Different types of cocoa are selected for cultivation in the various growing areas. In Australia, Cadbury uses high quality cocoa beans sourced from Ghana in West Africa and Asia.
Most of the world's cocoa is grown in a narrow belt 10 degrees either side of the Equator because cocoa trees grow well in humid tropical climates with regular rains and a short dry season. The trees need even temperatures between 21-23 degrees Celsius, with a fairly constant rainfall of 1000-2500mm per year.
Many countries now grow cocoa. The main producers outside the main central American producers, Brazil and Ecuador, are:
Ghana, which grows some of the best quality cocoa in the world, Nigeria and Cote D'Ivore.
Cocoa was first planted in Ghana, now a major producer, in 1879 and as in the rest of West Africa, cocoa is grown almost entirely on small family farms. Cocoa farming is a small unsophisticated business as the current planting patterns of cocoa trees make mechanisation impractical.
In Asia, public and private plantations have been developed as well as small farms.
Malaysia and Indonesia, where the cocoa is a relatively new crop, are becoming increasingly important growing areas.