Brief History of Cocoa in Solomon Islands   

Grant Vinning’s research tells us that we can award the title of “most likely to be the first to plant cocoa in Solomon Islands” to John Stephens. After trading around Savo and Guadalcanal, Stephens settled in Ugi in the Makira district in 1871. When Woodford, the energetic High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, visited Stephens there in 1896 he observed that the cocoa trees that Stephens had planted around his house were “diseased and neglected” (Lawrence 2014). This suggests that they were planted in the late 1880s.   

Another important character in Solomon Islands cocoa history was Oscar Karl Svensen. By the turn of the century, Svensen, a Norwegian, had a massive commercial operation in the Solomon Islands – he sold the 25,000 ha he had accumulated to Lever Brothers in 1907 – as well as a significant fleet of trading vessels. In its extensive obituary in February 1964, the Pacific Islands Monthly listed the amazing number of crops that he experimented with and one of these was cocoa (Golden 1993).   

It was not as if cocoa was a crop that Svensen had plucked from thin air. From 1886 until the turn of the century, Western Solomons and Isabel was under German control. Both the Gazelle Peninsula and Madang in PNG were areas of considerable German activity. As a trader with a large fleet, it is more than likely that Svensen visited both areas and so was aware of cocoa.   

Svensen left the Solomons in 1912 a very rich man earning £6,000 when the Resident Commissioner, received just £300 per annum (Goode 1993). Goode makes the point that Svensen used his wealth to employ many Europeans to manage his diverse business activities. Svensen’s departure date in 1912 suggests that his cocoa plantings would have occurred around the turn of the century. So, if cocoa was introduced into the Solomons in the late 1890s, the next two questions are where? And how?  

For “where?”, Judith Bennett has traced Svensen’s extensive land holdings to islands in what is currently Central Province; a number of places on Guadalcanal as well as around Marau; around Makira; Santa Cruz; and Russell Islands (Bennett 1987).   

Initially, things appeared to start moving a little for cocoa in Solomon Islands in the 1940s. 

As early as 1946 Badcock stated that the Solomons had good climate and some soils such that no area was seen as which it might not be considered practicable to encourage native cocoa growing (Fiji Agricultural Journal October 1946).   

Cocoa Industry Overview  

The cocoa industry is a significant crop for the Solomon Islands’ economy. There are more than 24,000 smallholders comprising of around 133,000 family members which means that about 26% percent of the Solomon Island population is engaged in cocoa production. Cocoa growers are concentrated mainly in Guadalcanal, Malaita and Makira provinces but family cocoa blocks can be found in every province in the country. Cocoa is seen as a cash crop, with many families harvesting when they need money for important family events or for school fees.

Below is a simple map of Solomon Islands showing where cocoa grows.


The three main cocoa producing provinces in the Solomon Islands are Guadalcanal, Malaita and Makira. Between these 3 provinces they produce over 90% of the country’s entire cocoa crop.

There are only two international ports in the Solomon Islands, and these are Honiara (Guadalcanal) and Noro (Western Province). Currently cocoa is only exported out of Honiara. Cocoa is moved around from the other provinces to the capital by inter islands vessels. Due to poor infrastructure, farmers get their cocoa to their local wharf by lots of different ways including walking, truck or banana boat.