October 21, 2019 / 3:37 PM / a month ago

Ivory Coast dry spell, sun to improve cocoa main crop: farmers

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Lighter rains mixed with sunshine across most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions will boost the October-to-March main crop after weeks of heavy rain caused disease to spread, farmers said on Monday.

The marketing season in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, opened in early October with a new farmgate price of 825 CFA francs ($1.42) per kg set by the government.

Weeks of wet weather culminated last week in some of the heaviest rains seen by cocoa farmers in five years, disturbing crop development and causing black pod disease to spread on some plantations, they said.

Because of the rains, the soil should stay moist enough for weeks to come, but more sunny spells will be needed as the bulk of the harvest occurs between November to January, farmers said.

More beans are leaving the bush in October compared to the same period last year, farmers said, but high moisture content has already caused several deliveries to be rejected by buyers and exporters.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output, farmers said this season’s output would be bigger than in the same period last year, but that roads damaged by floods made transport difficult.

“There is cocoa. But it’s hard to get it out because the roads have turned bad after the rains, said Rodolphe Kouame, who farms near Daloa.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in the region of Daloa, which includes the region of Bouafle, was 14.7 millimetres (mm) last week, 4.8 mm below the five-year average.

Farmers in the western region of Man, which includes the region of Duekoue, where rainfall was below average, said it was difficult to carry their deliveries to the port of San Pedro because of bad roads and insecurity.

Rainfall was below average in the southern region of Agboville, in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, and in the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said there would be no shortage of supply until February as the plantations are full of pods.

“The harvest will pick up and if the dry season is not too harsh, we will have a long and good-quality crop,” said Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre.

Data showed rainfall in Soubre, which includes the regions of San Pedro and Sassandra, was 21.9 mm last week, 0.9 mm above the five-year average.

Rainfall was above average in the southern region of Divo.

Average temperatures ranged from 26.02 to 27.25 Celsius.

Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly, editing by Anna Pujol-Mazzini and Jason Neely

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