Light rains, sunshine to boost Ivorian cocoa harvest

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 25, 2012 10:41 AM
Light rains, sunshine to boost Ivorian cocoa harvest

By Loucoumane Coulibaly

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Light rainfall and abundant sunshine across most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa regions last week will encourage healthy output as the new harvesting season opens, farmers and analysts said on Tuesday.

The main crop harvest in the world's top cocoa producer opens on October 1.

While improved weather in recent weeks is helping to ease worries that outbreaks of fungal disease caused by poor conditions in July and August could affect production, fears that a sweeping reform of the sector may disrupt supply persist.

Farmers said that most regions were primed for a healthy start to the season but continued rains and sunshine would be needed until November to ensure robust output through January.

In the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the Ivorian cocoa belt, one analyst reported 9 millimeters of rainfall compared with 18mm the previous week.

"We're set to have lots of good quality cocoa for the first two months of the main crop," said Lazare Ake, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre.

"If we have good rains and lots of sunshine in October and until early November, we'll have an abundant harvest until January," he said.

Similar growing conditions were reported in the western regions of Duekoue, Gagnoa and Meagui and in the southern regions of Divo and Agboville.

In the western region of Daloa, responsible for a quarter of Ivory Coast's national output, farmers reported two good showers during the week.

"The flowers are still coming out. It's a good sign and that is encouraging going forward. Harvesting has started on most of the plantations and there are lots of ripe and nearly ripe pods on the trees," said local farmer Laurent Kouakou.

In the southeastern region of Aboisso, farmers reported two light showers and abundant sunshine after two weeks without rain.

"More and more beans are being dried in the villages in the region. The harvest will be good, because there is now less black pod (disease)," said Aboisso farmer Etienne Yao.

In the eastern region of Abengourou, one analyst reported 42mm of rains, which followed a week without showers.

"Looking at the trees, we don't think there will be a lot of cocoa in October, but there will be lots of beans in November and December," said farmer Marcellin N'Da.

A sweeping reform of the top world grower's cocoa sector is meant to provide its farmers with a minimum price for their produce and is a key condition for debt relief under the IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) scheme - a vital part of its bid to rebuild after last year's post-election conflict.

(Editing by Joe Bavier and Alison Birrane)