Ivory Coast cocoa farmers unworried by low rainfall

FILE PHOTO: Farmers stand at a cocoa farm in Agboville, Ivory Coast April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – High soil moisture content has protected Ivory Coast’s cocoa crops from below-average rainfall last week, farmers said on Monday, maintaining their hopes for an abundant main crop next season.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is wrapping up its April-to-September mid-crop and preparing for the 2018/2019 season, which starts in October this year and runs through to March.

Farmers said soil moisture remained high following a week of abundant rainfall earlier this month, and that many flowers were still turning into small pods.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they expected the main crop to be more abundant than last season.

“If many flowers continue to turn into cherelles and the weather remains fine in August, harvests for the main crop will be good,” said Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre, adding that sunshine levels would be very important next month.

Data collected by Reuters showed that rainfall in Soubre, including Sassandra and San Pedro, was at 4.6 millimetres (mm) last week, 17.5 mm below the five-year average.

But in the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output, farmers said the size of the main crop would be determined by next month’s weather.

“Everything is going well for the moment, but we need more rain and sun next month,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa.

“Many flowers will die if cocoa trees do not receive enough water,” said N’Zue.

Data showed that rainfall in Daloa, including Bouafle, was at 8.4 mm last week, 14.4 mm below the five-year average.

Farmers who reported good growing conditions in other regions also called for more downpours.

Rainfall in southern region of Agboville was at 8.5 mm last week, 10.5 mm below average, and at 10.7 mm in the south eastern region of Aboisso, 10.3 mm below average.

In the central region of Yamoussoukro, rainfall was at 8.2 mm last week, 9.3 mm below average, and at 12.8 mm in the western region of Man, 15.4 mm below average.

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