By Loucoumane Coulibaly
ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Abundant rainfall last week in most of Ivory Coast's principal cocoa regions could boost the forthcoming October-to-March main crop but more sunshine is needed to accelerate the growth of small pods, farmers said on Monday.
Getting the right mix of rain and sunny spells during July and August is crucial for strengthening the development cocoa pods and avoiding rot and disease ahead of the main crop in the world's leading cocoa producer.
In the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the high quality of its beans, farmers reported abundant rainfall last week after dry spells earlier in the summer.
"We don't have enough large pods for the October harvest because there have not been regular rains in the area since July," N'Dri Kouao, a cocoa farmer in Niable, near the Ghanaian border, said.
"At this point, we have lots of cherelles and small pods on the trees. If it rains regularly in September and October we will have lots of large pods in November and December," Kouao said.
In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers reported two good downpours during the past week.
"The rain is no longer a problem. We need lots of sun for a good development of the pods and to avoid disease," said Salame Kone, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre.
"The cocoa is developing well. We will have lots of beans this year during the main season if the rains alternate with the sun in the coming months," he said.
Farmers reported similar growing conditions in the southern regions of Aboisso, Agboville, Divo and Tiassale, and in the western region of Duekoue and Gagnoa.
In the center-western region of Daloa, which accounts for a quarter of Ivory Coast's output, farmers reported several large downpours and average sunshine last week.
"The weather is good in the bush. But we need more sunshine in the coming weeks to keep the pods from darkening due to the strong humidity and reducing the harvests at the start of the main season," said Albert N'Zue, who farms near Daloa.
"There are plantations where the harvests will easily begin near the end of September because there are large pods that are almost ripe," said N'Zue.
(Editing by Aaron Ross and David Clarke)