Ivorian cocoa farmers hope for dry weather as disease flares in east

FILE PHOTO: Men dry cocoa beans in Kokoumbo, Ivory Coast, September 23, 2018. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon/File Photo

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Above-average rainfall in Ivory Coast’s eastern cocoa-growing regions last week could hinder bean-drying and fuel the spread of disease, farmers said on Monday.

Harvesting for the October-to-March main crop has picked up in the world’s top cocoa producer, with farmers saying they were handling many beans.

After months of abundant rainfall, farmers said they were looking forward to a mild dry season, which starts in November and runs through to February.

In the eastern region of Abengourou, farmers said dry spells were needed to stop black pod disease from gaining ground.

“The amount of rot in crops is rising, it is raining too much,” said Denis Amoakon, who farms on the outskirts of Abengourou.

“If the coming weeks are sunny, the illness will stop and we will have a lot of cocoa,” said Amoakon.

Data collected by Reuters showed that rainfall in Abengourou, which includes the region of Aboisso, was 37 millimetres (mm) last week, 11 mm above the five-year average.

In the southern region of Agboville, farmers said the weather was making it difficult to dry beans.

“We have very little sunshine, it is difficult to dry (beans) properly,” said Christophe Boka, who farms near Agboville.

Rainfall in the region of Agboville was 60.7 mm last week, 35.9 mm above the five-year average.

Farmers were more optimistic in the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, where rainfall was lighter.

“This season will be long if the dry season is not too severe,” said Koffi Kouame, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre. “Many pods will be cut between December and January.”

Data showed that rainfall in Soubre, including Sassandra and San Pedro, was 12.1 mm last week, 8.7 mm below the five-year average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of national output, farmers also said they were happy with the weather.

“We are beginning to have a lot of beans. The sunny spells are long, and this is good for us,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa.

Rainfall in Daloa, which includes Bouafle region, was 10.9 mm last week, 8 mm below the five-year average.

Rainfall in the southern region of Divo was 16.4 mm, 6.1 mm below average, and 18 mm in the western region of Man, 2.5 mm below average.

The central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro saw 36 and 19.3 mm of rain last week, 16.8 mm and 0.5 mm above average.

Average temperatures in the cocoa-growing regions ranged from 25.57 to 27.87 degrees Celsius.