Ivory Coast rains boost cocoa main crop, farmers say

ABIDJAN, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Above average rain in Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions could boost the first three months of the October-to-March main crop, though there have been some limited signs of black pod disease, farmers said on Monday.

Harvesting picked up last week and farmers were stockpiling beans of good size and quality in the bush in anticipation of higher farmgate prices for the coming season, they said.

The government is due to set a new farmgate price on Wednesday, opening the new marketing season, and most farmers said they were expecting the price to be well above the 850 CFA per kg of the last season.

In the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, where rainfall was above average, farmers said the good mix of sun and rainfall would help trees to reach their maximum potential this season.

“There is a lot of picking at the moment and we think that until December we will have more cocoa compared to last season,” said Claude N’Da, who farms near Yamoussoukro.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Yamoussoukro was 60.8mm last week, 35.6mm above the five-year average.

In the western region of Soubre and in the southern region of Divo, where rainfall was also above average, farmers said they were happy with the size and the quality of the first beans but more sunny spells were needed to continue to dry them properly.

Although rainfall was below average in the southern region of Agboville, farmers there said growing conditions were good.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of national output, and in the eastern region of Abengourou, where rainfall was below the average, farmers reported some cases of the black pod disease.

In Daloa, 37.3mm fell last week, 7.1mm above the average.

Average temperatures over the past week ranged from 24.5 to 27.4 Celsius. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)