Ivory Coast on track for record cocoa harvest in 2018/19

FILE PHOTO: A farmer opens a cocoa pod at a farm in Toumodi, Ivory Coast October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon/File Photo

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast is on track for a record cocoa harvest in the 2018/19 season of 2.2 million tonnes, up from about 2 million tonnes last season, due to favorable weather and new plantations, farmers, exporters and middlemen said on Wednesday.

The main cocoa crop, which runs from October to March, is expected to hit a record 1.7 million tonnes, they said, up from 1.5 million tonnes last season.

Arrivals at Ivorian ports as of Sunday had increased by 46 percent since the beginning of the season compared to the same period last season.

“I don’t know what’s happening but there is so much cocoa this year that even I am surprised,” said a buyer in the western town of Guiglo.

However, analysts said wet weather, which has raised concerns among some farmers about possible fungal disease, could scupper the record harvest.

“Wet weather kind of works against the beans in the drying process and slows it down,” said Stephen Mass, a commodities analyst at the Hightower Report. “So it may cause near-term output to slow over the next couple of weeks.”

Stephen Platt, futures specialist at Archer Financials, said that despite high production he expected cocoa prices to be supported by strong demand and a potential weakening of the dollar.

“The market is still pretty well-balanced, looking at a modest surplus,” he said. “My own suspicion is the crop looks good, but I think that if we start seeing some weakness in the dollar, that should start to underpin the market.”

Reporting by Ange Aboa and Renita Young; Editing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Dale Hudson