YAOUNDE Cocoa farmgate prices in Cameroon's main growing regions slipped by as much as 19 percent in November as heavy rains lowered bean quality and damaged roads hindering access to trading centers, buyers said on Thursday.
Weeks of showers in the world's fifth largest grower also provoked an outbreak of fungal black pod disease, creating further woes for farmers after 2011/12 output reached 220,000 tonnes, falling well short of a projected 250,000 tonnes.
In the main trading centre of Kumba, in the South West Region of the country, prices dropped to 950 CFA francs ($1.84)per kg, from 1,150-1,160 CFA the previous month.
"Buyers are no longer coming from the economic capital because the quantity of beans on the market has been reduced," said Joseph Nde, manager of the Cameroon Marketing Commodities (CAMACO), a major exporting firm based in Kumba.
"Moreover, persistent heavy rainfall has further deteriorated the bad state of most of the earth roads in this region," he said.
Similar poor weather was seen in the South, Centre, and East Regions, where regular heavy showers and a lack of sunshine had hindered the proper drying of cocoa beans.
"As there are few beans on the market now, the number of buyers has therefore gone down with the few who show up dictating the prices," said Moise Edou, a farmer from Sangmelima in the South Region.
South-West and Centre regions are the main cocoa growing regions in Cameroon, with each accounting for 40 percent of national output, while the South and East regions account for the remaining 15 and 5 percent respectively.
The cocoa season in the Central African country runs from August 1 to July 31, with main crop harvest from October to January/February and the mid crop from April to June/July.
(Reporting by Tansa Musa; editing by Joe Bavier and James Jukwey)