November 25, 2019 / 3:27 PM / 21 days ago

Ivory Coast farmers say more rain needed to maintain cocoa conditions

ABIDJAN, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Below-average rainfall mixed with sunny spells in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa regions last week has helped growing conditions, farmers said on Monday, though they warned more rain would be needed next month as temperatures rise.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is in the dry season, which runs from mid-November to March, when rain is scarce or light.

Farmers said they remained confident of the harvest up to January, as soil moisture content was enough to help the crop.

But they said rising temperatures meant more rain would be needed per week from next month to boost the growth of small pods on trees for harvesting from February.

“The heat is becoming very intense. If there isn’t good rainfall in December, cocoa trees will be weakened and the harvest will be weak from February,” said Raphael Kouame, who farms near the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s national output.

Data showed rainfall in Daloa, which includes the region of Bouafle, was 0.7 millimetres (mm) last week, 6.1 mm below the five-year average.

In the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, and in the southern region of Divo, where rainfall was below average last week, farmers said the outlook was good, but they were concerned by the rising heat.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they were happy as they were preparing for large-scale harvesting.

“There are many ripe pods now on the trees. We’ll have more harvesting in December,” Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre, said.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre, which includes the regions of San Pedro and Sassandra, was 2.2 mm, 14.7 mm below the five-year average. Similar levels were reported in the southern region of Agboville.

Average temperatures ranged from 26.25 to 28.52 Celsius. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Mark Potter)

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