ABIDJAN Patchy light rains mixed with hot weather and mild Harmattan winds last week in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions should boost next year's crop, farmers said on Tuesday, but demand from buyers has slackened due to low global prices.
The Harmattan, a dusty wind from the Sahara that typically arrives between December and March, can slash cocoa output and damage the quality of beans by killing small pods and drying out the soil. Last year, strong winds caused severe damage.
While the mild Harmattan this year has strengthened production, farmers said low global prices had depressed demand from buyers, leading to mounting stockpiles of beans.
New York and London cocoa futures hit three-year lows this month on strong supply and forecasts of a global surplus next year.
"There was a little rain. It's good for next year's harvest," said Lazare Ake, who farms in the outskirts of the western region of Soubre in the heart of the cocoa belt.
"The beans have been piling up in the bush for two weeks. The buyers don't want to take them because they say that the international price has decreased a lot," Ake said.
In the centre-west region of Daloa, which accounts for about a quarter of national cocoa output, farmers reported no rainfall in the period.
"The Harmattan has increased in intensity. But it is tolerable for the trees," said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa.
"The winds are light. It is difficult to sell cocoa compared to last season at this time. The buyers say that the world price has decreased," N'Zue said.
Farmers also reported good growing conditions in the western regions of Duekoue and Gagnoa, and in the southern regions of Aboisso, Agboville, Divo and Tiassale.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Aaron Ross and Louise Heavens)