September 11, 2018 / 9:37 AM / 14 days ago

Ivorian cocoa farmers fear black pod disease amid heavy rainfall

ABIDJAN, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Above average rainfall across Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions last week could impact the health of the October-to-March main crop, farmers said on Monday, just days before harvests are expected to begin.

Farmers said they were satisfied with the number of pods on trees, but worried too much rain would trigger black pod disease by preventing the first cocoa beans from fully drying.

“Many farmers will start harvesting next week. There are concerns over the drying process because it is very damp around the area,” said Sebastien Dechi, who farms near the southern region of Agboville.

“We have seen brown rot on some of the trees, but nothing serious for the moment,” added Dechi.

Reuters data showed the southern region of Agboville saw 28.2 millimetres (mm) of rain last week, 13.8 mm above the five-year average.

Farmers in the eastern region of Abengourou said they expected the main crop to be more abundant than last season, when yields started dwindling as early as February.

“This year harvests will go far,” said Kevin Aka, who farms near Abengourou.

Data showed Abengourou, which includes the town of Aboisso, saw 35.5 mm of rain last week, 19.7 mm above average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output, farmers said cocoa cooperatives were preparing warehouses for the first batch of beans.

Daloa, which includes the town of Bouafle, saw 45 mm of rain last week, 15 mm above average.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they were happy with the weather.

“There are more pods on trees now than during the same period last season,” said Lazare Ake, who farms near Soubre.

Soubre, which includes the towns of Sassandra and San Pedro, saw 34.5 mm of rain last week, 17.8 mm above average.

Reuters data showed the following levels of rainfall in other Ivory Coast cocoa producing regions last week:

* Rainfall was 10.7 mm above average in the southern region of Divo, at 29.3 mm.

* In the western region of Man, which includes the town of Duekoue, rainfall was 87.7 mm last week, 49.5 mm above average.

* Rainfall was at 33.3 mm in the central region of Yamoussoukro, 10.6 mm above average. Average temperatures in the cocoa-growing regions ranged from 23.9 to 25.5 degrees Celsius. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Mark Potter)

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