Most Ivory Coast farmers welcome rains as dry winds approach

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Above average rains last week in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa regions should strengthen the October-to-March main crop before the arrival of dry seasonal winds, farmers said on Monday.

The late downpours boosted soil moisture for most farmers as Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, prepares for the dry season that runs from mid-November to March.

The dusty winds of the Harmattan, which usually sweep from the Sahara in December-March, were already blowing in the north of the country and moving southward. When severe, the winds can harm cocoa pods and dry soil, making beans smaller.

Farmers and cooperative managers told Reuters buying had picked up compared with the previous week when election-related political turmoil disrupted the marketing of beans.

“The rains have been good and buyers are loading up,” said Kouassi Kouame, who farms near the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre was 40.7 millimetres (mm) last week, 22.2 mm above the five-year average.

Rains were mainly above average in the southern regions of Divo and Agboville and in the eastern region of Abengourou, where farmers said harvesting would rise sharply until late December.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, and in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, rains were below average. Farmers there said plantations would need one decent shower per week until the end of the month or supply would be tight after January.

In Daloa, 3 mm of rain fell last week, 7.3 mm below average.

Last week’s average daily temperatures ranged from 26.5 to 28.8 degrees Celsius.

Editing by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Barbara Lewis