May 7, 2018 / 2:45 PM / a year ago

Chemicals to combat caterpillars help Ivory Coast cocoa crop

ABIDJAN, May 7 (Reuters) - Successes in the battle to reduce plant-eating caterpillars gave a boost to Ivory Coast’s April-to-September cocoa mid-crop last week, though a lack of rain tempered optimism, farmers said.

In the coastal region of San Pedro, farmers said they received chemicals from the Coffee and Cocoa Council to fight a caterpillar infestation that hit cocoa plantations in the world’s top producer last month.

“We think the mid-crop will be good. There are fewer caterpillars because we have spread products on the trees,” said Abdoulaye Sawa, who farms in the outskirts of San Pedro.

An agronomist who advises farmers said there had been fewer complaints last week.

But farmers were concerned about the weather. Although sunshine allows harvested beans to dry properly, more rain is needed to strengthen a new wave of small pods to be harvested in July.

“It is very hot. We need more rain for all the small pods on the trees to develop well,” said Koffi Kouame, who farms in the western region of Soubre, adding harvests had so far been abundant.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre reached 11.8 millimeters (mm) last week, 17.7 mm below average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output, farmers said harvesting was picking up after a slow start last month.

“The prospects are good but we need more humidity. There will be a lot of cocoa in the region over this month and the next,” said Raphael Kouame, who farms near Daloa.

Data showed Daloa received 15.8 mm of rain last week, 8.2 mm below average.

Farmers reported similar conditions in the eastern region of Abengourou, where rainfall was at 11.2 mm last week, 18.6 mm below average.

Only 5mm of rain fell in Man, which includes Duekoue, last week, 18.4 mm below average. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Mark Potter)

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