September 24, 2018 / 4:35 PM / 3 months ago

Ivorian cocoa farmers welcome drop in rainfall, expect higher farm price

ABIDJAN, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Dry spells across most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions last week will help dry the first beans of the October-to-March main crop, farmers said on Monday, as they look for a higher minimum price this year.

The top grower sells forward the bulk of its anticipated harvest in order to set a minimum price for farmers, known as the farmgate price, at the start of the season.

The 2018/19 season is expected to start on October 1, but harvesting has already picked up in some areas.

Farmers said last week’s dry spell would help the first beans dry properly and quell disease, adding that they expected the main crop to remain healthy until January.

A mix of regular rain and sunshine would be needed in October to yield abundant, high-quality beans through February and March, they said.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they were stocking most of their harvests so far, as they expected a higher farmgate price at the opening of this season compared to last year.

“High-quality beans are coming out. (But) we are selling just a few of them in order to cover our children’s’ schooling,” said Henri Yobouet, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre.

Soubre, which includes the towns of Sassandra and San Pedro, saw five millimetres (mm) of rain last week, 11.4 mm below the five-year average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output, farmers said the dry spell would protect crops from disease.

“Everybody is waiting for the new farmgate price. Conditions bring the promise of a good harvest at the start of the season,” said Raphael Kouame, who farms near Daloa.

“We needed this hot period to avoid too much humidity, which can lead to crop disease,” said Kouame.

Farmers in other cocoa regions were also optimistic.

Reuters data showed the following levels of rainfall in other Ivory Coast cocoa producing regions last week:

* In the eastern region of Abengourou, which includes the town of Aboisso, rainfall was 5.9 mm, 11.7 mm below average.

* Rainfall was 6.4 mm in the centre-western region of Daloa, which includes the town of Bouafle, 19.1 mm below average.

* Rainfall in the western region of Man, which includes the town of Duekoue, was 23.1 mm, 7 mm below average.

* The southern region of Agboville saw 2.5 mm, 13.2 mm below average, and the southern region of Divo saw 2.1 mm, 16.8 mm below average.

* Rainfall in the central region of Yamoussoukro was at 3.3 mm, 17.5 mm below average.

Average temperatures in the cocoa-growing regions ranged from 24.9 to 26.8 degrees Celsius. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly Editing by Sofia Christensen and Kirsten Donovan)

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