Cote d’ivoire farmers need steady rains to bolster cocoa mid-crop

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Rainfall was below average last week across Cote d’ivoire’s cocoa-growing regions, but farmers remained optimistic of an abundant April-to-September mid-crop provided the rains pick up as expected this month.

FILE:A view of a cocoa plantation in Niable, east Ivory Coast November 23, 2011. / REUTERS

The West African nation, the world’s top cocoa producer, is entering its rainy season, which runs from April to mid-November.

Overcast skies are becoming more common across the country, and farmers are expecting heavier rains to follow suit.

“If the rains are abundant and regular this month and next month, the quality of the beans will be better compared to last season,” said Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre, the heart of Ivory Coast’s cocoa belt.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre was 13.8 millimeters (mm) last week, 3.3 mm below the five-year average.

Other farmers in Soubre described favorable mid-crop development, adding that trees were abundant with fruit despite the underwhelming rains.

Farmers in the southern regions of Agboville and Divo, which also experienced below-average rainfall this week, made similar comments.

In the western-central region of Daloa, farmers warned that more frequent rain would be needed for the harvest to meet expectations.

“We will have a lot of pickings, but the rains must be regular from this month onward,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa, where rainfall was 18.1 mm below the average, at only 1.3 mm.

N’Zue’s concerns were echoed by farmers in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, both of which also experienced below-average rainfall.

On top of weather concerns, farmers across the country described a weak marketing environment compared with last year after the country’s Coffee and Cocoa Council last week reduced the farmgate price by 9 percent to 750 CFA francs ($1.35) per kilogram.

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