December 3, 2018 / 3:18 PM / 13 days ago

Moisture boosts Ivory Coast cocoa crop despite Harmattan winds

ABIDJAN, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Farmers in Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions said on Monday that moisture levels were sufficient to sustain their crops despite the arrival of dry Harmattan winds and slightly below-average rainfall last week.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is in its dry season, which runs from November to late February. Dry, dusty Harmattan winds sweep in sand from the Sahara, which can ravage cocoa pods and sap soil moisture, leading to smaller beans.

The Harmattan is currently in northern Ivory Coast and moving southward, but farmers told Reuters that harvesting was picking up, with plenty of pods ripe on the trees.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they expected the dry season to be relatively mild as rainfall remained abundant.

“The weather is exceptional this year. We still have lots of rain and we think that the harvests will be very good in February and March,” said Kouffi Kouame, who farms near Soubre.

Rainfall in the Soubre region, which includes the towns of Sassandra and San Pedro, was 19.5mm last week, 4.5mm above the five-year average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which accounts for a quarter of Ivory Coast’s cocoa output, farmers said they were confident production would remain strong.

“If there is rain over the next two weeks, we are sure we will have a sufficient harvest next year,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa.

Rainfall in the region of Daloa, which includes the town of Bouafle, was 13.4mm last week, 7.7mm above average.

Farmers were also optimistic in other regions, including Divo and Agboville in the south, Abengourou in the east, Yamoussoukro in the centre and Man in the west, despite below-average rainfall.

Rainfall was slightly above average in the central region of Bongouanou.

Average temperatures in the cocoa-growing regions ranged from 26.75 to 29.32 degrees Celsius. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Aaron Ross and Andrew Heavens)

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