Heavy rain in Ivory Coast may boost cocoa output but raises disease fears

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Heavy rain last week in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions could boost harvesting in the coming months but farmers fear beans could start rotting due to high humidity, they told Reuters on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer works on cocoa pods at a farm in Toumodi, Ivory Coast, October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

The marketing season in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, started on Oct. 1, with a new farmgate price of 825 CFA francs ($1.39) per kg set by the government.

Farmers in villages said many trucks were loading beans in the bush to be sold at the government price.

Plenty of cherelles were proliferating on trees after good rains last week, ensuring good harvests from February onwards despite the start of the dry season in November, farmers said.

Farmers said the downpours made drying beans a difficult and long process, increasing the chances of mould if more sunny spells were not to come.

“It rained a lot. The drying was difficult and we are worried the beans will rot if their humidity content keeps rising,” said Celestin Ettien, who farms near the central region of Yamoussoukro.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Yamoussoukro was at 70.6 millimetres (mm) last week, 46.5 mm above the five-year average.

Similar concerns were reported across the country as rains were well above average. In the central region of Bongouanou, rainfall was at 70.2 mm last week, 46.8 mm above average.

In the southern regions of Agboville, rainfall was at 70.7 mm, 47 mm above average and in the southern region of Divo, rainfall was 64.8 mm, 39.7 mm above average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, producing a quarter of Ivory Coast’s national output, farmers wished for more sunny spells to avoid diseases and boost growth.

“The trees need more sun. The weather is too wet in the plantation,” said Raphael Kouame, who farms near Daloa.

“Brown rot is a concern for farmers,” Kouame said.

Rainfall in the region of Daloa, which includes Bouafle, was 49 mm last week, 21.6 mm above the five-year average.

The spread of black pod disease was reported in the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans. Rainfall there was 59.4 mm last week, 33.4 mm above average.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they expected harvesting to be abundant after January.

Data showed rainfall in Soubre, which includes the regions of San Pedro and Sassandra, was 35.5 mm last week, 13.6 mm above the five-year average.

Average temperatures ranged from 25.05 to 27.07 Celsius.

Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly, editing by Anna Pujol-Mazzini and David Evans