By Loucoumane Coulibaly
ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Weather was mixed last week across Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions with some areas receiving showers while others saw dry, hot conditions, farmers and analysts said on Monday.
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, is in the dry season, which runs from mid-November to March, but regular showers continued into mid-December on most plantations this year.
Meanwhile, an analyst said the dry Harmattan winds, which blow south from the Sahara Desert from December to March, were progressing across the country but had yet to reach the cocoa growing regions.
In the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the Ivorian cocoa belt, an analyst reported 112 millimeters of rainfall compared with none the previous week. Farmers said they were optimistic over the main crop outlook as abundant downpours would improve the size of the crop.
"The Harmattan isn't yet here and there was a lot of rain. It's extraordinary for December," said Lazare Ake, who farms near Soubre.
"All the farmers are happy. Plenty of cocoa is going out and, with these rains, we think that we'll have good quality cocoa after January," he said.
Farmers in the southeastern region of Aboisso reported one shower over the week, after the previous week saw no rainfall.
"We had a good shower...I think if the Harmattan isn't bad this year, there will be cocoa on the trees," said Aboisso farmer Etienne Yao.
A strong Harmattan can dry the soil and prevent cocoa trees from developing new pods, though it tends to improve the quality of beans already harvested and in storage.
In the western region of Daloa, responsible for a quarter of Ivory Coast's national output, farmers reported no rainfall for the second consecutive week and very hot temperatures.
"It is very hot and we've gone two weeks without rain. It's not good for the cocoa, especially if the Harmattan arrives and it's strong," said Marcel Aka, who farms outside Daloa.
"There is a lot of harvesting right now due to the holidays at the end of the year. There are signs that make us think there may be a bean shortage after January in this zone, because there are not enough small pods on the trees," he said.
Farmers voiced similar worries in the western region of Bouafle which also received no rain.
In the eastern region of Abengourou, an analyst reported 11 mm of rainfall, compared with nil the week before.
"There was a little bit if rain. The cocoa is doing well. It's cool in the mornings and there is lots of fog. We get the feeling the Harmattan will arrive in the next days," said farmer Joseph Amani.
In the coastal region of Sassandra, another analyst reported 13.6 mm last week, down from 27.8 mm the previous week.
"There are lots of flowers and small pods on the trees here, because the rains for the beginning of the season came late. With these rains, the main crop will be long and abundant," said Sassandra farmer Alphonse Lattro.
(Editing by Joe Bavier and Alison Birrane)