Brown rot affects Ivory Coast cocoa harvest: farmers

FILE PHOTO: A farmer holds an opened cocoa pod at his farm in Anyama, Ivory Coast July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Brown rot disease will reduce the size of the cocoa harvest in Ivory Coast, farmers said on Wednesday.

Harvesting for the October-to-March main crop officially started on Oct.1, but heavy rainfall in parts of the primary cocoa-growing regions has caused the spread of disease.

Farmers said brown rot is damaging an increasing number of pods in the southwestern region of Soubre, the western region of Man and the center-western region of Daloa.

“Because of brown rot I harvested 17 bags, whereas around the same time last year I had more than 28 bags,” said Olivier Kouasso Konan, who farms in the western region of Duekoue, which accounts for 30 percent of national cocoa production.

The world’s top cocoa producer reaped a record harvest of over 2 million tonnes of beans in 2016/17, but farmers’ earnings were slashed by falling world prices. This year many could not afford to apply fertilisers and various chemical treatments in the months leading up to the start of the main crop.

“We cannot have the same production as last year. The conditions are not the same. There has been too much rain and many diseases were not treated because of a lack of means,” said buyer Ali Keita.

Reporting by Ange Aboa; Edited by Sofia Christensen and David Evans