By Loucoumane Coulibaly
ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Heavy rainfall across most of Ivory Coast's principal cocoa growing regions last week could hinder proper drying of beans and risks damaging flowers and young pods, farmers and analysts said on Monday.
Harvesting of the main crop in Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, officially opened earlier this month under a widespread reform of the sector that is being closely watched by traders.
Earlier concerns that fungal disease caused by over a month of cool, overcast conditions could harm output this season have subsided, as have worries that hitches in the implementation of the reform measures might lead to supply blockages.
However, farmers are now complaining of unseasonable rainy weather.
"There will still be rains until mid-November," said an Abidjan based agrometeorolgist who asked not to be named.
In the western region of Duekoue, four days of heavy rainfall were raising concerns among farmers for cocoa in the early stages of development.
"We don't need strong rains right now. It can damage the flowers and small pods and reduce the harvest in January," said Amara Kone, who farms on the outskirts of Duekoue.
Similar conditions were reported in the coastal region of San Pedro where farmers also reported four heavy showers.
"The rains are strong, as if we were in the main rainy season. There is too much moisture. This could raise quality issues," said San Pedro farmer Labbe Zoungrana.
An analyst also reported 22 mm of rainfall in the coastal region of Sassandra, up from 15 mm the previous week.
In the eastern region of Abengourou, an analyst reported 19 millimetres of rainfall compared with 45 mm the previous week. However, farmers in the north of the region said heavy rains had damaged some bridges and hindered the transport of beans from the plantations.
"It rained a lot. Some rivers have overflowed...We worry that the beans are going to rot in the bush," said farmer Joseph Amani.
In the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the Ivorian cocoa belt, an analyst reported 54 mm of rainfall mixed with sunny spells.
"The last shower on Thursday was very heavy. If that keeps happening in the weeks to come, we worry that the small pods will fall from the trees and that we won't be able to dry our beans," said farmer Emile Konan who farms near Soubre.
In the southeastern region of Aboisso, an analyst reported 35.7 mm of rainfall compared with 0.6 mm the previous week.
And in the western region of Daloa, responsible for a quarter of Ivory Coast's national output, farmers reported three rains which would support the main crop.
"Up to now, things are going well. A lot of cocoa will go out next month, because there is lots of harvesting going on," said Attoungbre Kouame who farms near Daloa.
(Editing by Joe Bavier and James Jukwey)
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