Côte d'Ivoire ranked third in world coffee production after Brazil and Colombia. Introduced as a cash crop during the colonial period, coffee was cultivated throughout the forest zone, with the heaviest production in the denser forests of the east and along the margin of the forest moving westward from Dimbokro to Man. The bulk of the crop consisted of robusta varieties, which were more bitter and less expensive than arabica varieties and therefore were used in blends to reduce costs.
Coffee trees were started in nurseries. After about a year, before the rains in May, they were transplanted to permanent sites. After two years they were pruned to a maximum height of two meters to make harvesting easier, and they were kept pruned to improve yields. Trees began bearing at above five years and continued to produce for ten to twenty years. Trees flowered several times throughout the year; however, the main harvests took place in August and November through January. Yields averaged 250 kilograms per hectare, or about 25 percent of the yields in Colombia and Brazil, where trees received better care. Following the harvest, the berries were hulled, peeled, dried, and sorted before being shipped or processed locally.
Prior to independence, production grew at a rate of 10 percent per year. By the late 1950s, however, expansion slowed, and between 1965 and 1984 annual coffee production averaged 252,000 tons. By the mid-1980s, 60 percent of the coffee trees in the country were more than fifteen years old and producing well below average yields. Attempts by the government to encourage the planting of new coffee trees were largely unsuccessful, and production in the aging plantations continued to drop.
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