February 22, 2018 / 3:27 PM / a month ago

Ivory Coast cocoa exporters forecast drop in main crop output

ABIDJAN, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Cocoa exporters and pod counters in Ivory Coast have revised down their forecast for this year’s main harvest because of hot weather and a lack of rain.

A Reuters poll of 13 exporters and pod counters conducted on Wednesday predicted output of 1.320 million tonnes of cocoa beans in the world’s largest producer during the October-to-March main crop, down from 1.5 million tonnes during last year’s record harvest and short of the 1.450 million predicted at the start of the season.

Heavy showers between October and November created a brown rot that destroyed part of the crop. Since December, production has been stifled by a lack of rain and hot weather.

“There were a few showers here and there between December and February but not enough to offset the lack of rain in most areas over the past four months,” said a pod counter returned from the bush.

Farmers in Ivory Coast have expressed similar worries in recent weeks as below-average rainfall and hot spells sapped soil moisture, raising concern about the crop size.

Exporters also said they feared the dry weather would impact the development of the mid crop, which runs after the main harvest, from April-to-September.

“January’s good start is now very bad. Flowers and small pods have a 60 percent survival rate for the mid crop compared to 90 percent last season,” said a pod counter when referring to the possible impact on the mid crop.

Impoverished farmers have struggled to maintain their fields, which further affects production, the pod counters added.

Predictions for the April-September mid-crop will be made after the next counting session in March.

“The trees are tired by the huge production last year so we are observing some dormancy, but it is still difficult to be precise at this stage,” said an exporter in Abidjan. Last year, the mid-crop yielded a record 500,000 tonnes of cocoa beans compared to an average of 350-400,000 tonnes. (Created by Ange Aboa; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Edward McAllister)

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