Agriculture, especially cocoa, forms the basis of Ghana's economy, accounting for 36% of GDP in 2001. Cocoa exports in 2001 contributed 16% ($246.7 million) to total exports. About 23% of the total area, or 5,300,000 ha (13,096,000 acres), was cultivated in 1998. About 85% of all agricultural land holders in Ghana are small scale operators who primarily farm with hand tools.
Cocoa beans were first introduced to Ghana in 1878 by Tettah Quarshie. Thereafter, the cultivation of cocoa increased steadily until Ghana became the world's largest cocoa producer, supplying more than one-third of world production by the mid-1960s. By the early 1980s, production was less than half that of two decades before; market conditions were aggravated by a drop of nearly 75% in world cocoa prices between 1977 and 1982. In 1983/84, cocoa production totaled 158,000 tons, the lowest since independence; by 1999, production had rebounded to about 409,000 tons (second highest after Côte d'Ivoire). The Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board purchases and (at least in theory) exports the entire cocoa crop, as well as coffee and shea nuts. Cocoa smuggling was made punishable by death in 1982.
Ghana continues to be a net food importer. Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture estimates that Ghanaian agriculture may be operating at just 20% of its potential. The grain harvest in 1999 included corn, 1,014,000 tons; paddy rice, 210,000 tons; sorghum, 302,000 tons; and millet, 160,000 tons. Other crops were cassava, 7,845,000 tons; plantains, 2,046,000 tons; cocoyams (taro), 1,707,000 tons; yams, 3,249,000 tons; tomatoes, 216,000 tons; peanuts, 212,000 tons; sugarcane, 147,000 tons; coconuts, 240,000 tons; chilies and peppers, 170,000 tons; oranges, 50,000 tons; palm kernels, 35,000 tons; and palm oil, 310,000 tons. Considerable potential exists for the development of agricultural exports including pineapples, tomatoes, soybeans, and cut flowers.