March 20, 2017 / 1:45 PM / 5 months ago

Hot, dry weather in Ivory Coast stokes concerns for cocoa mid-crop

Cocoa pod (R) and cherelles (small pods) are seen at a plantation in a village in Soubre, Ivory Coast, January 29,Thierry Gouegnon

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Dry, hot weather last week in several regions of Ivory Coast's cocoa regions could threaten the approaching mid-crop although good conditions were reported elsewhere in the world's top producer, farmers said on Monday.

The dry season runs from mid-November to March, during which downpours are scarce and the weather can be very hot. But farmers worry that it is continuing deep into the season and might spill into April, raising the risk of damage.

In the southern region of Aboisso, farmers reported intense heat and inadequate rainfall for three weeks.

"The locals are starting to worry," said farmer Etienne Yao, who farms in the outskirts of Aboisso. "Some of the flowers are drying out on the plantations and, if the heat continues, the damage will be great and the harvest small," added Yao.

In the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans, farmers said the prolonged lack of rains and hot weather was weakening cocoa trees.

"The trees are tired because there is not much moisture in the soil," said farmer and cooperative manager N’Dri Kouao, who farms in Niable, near the border with Ghana.

Similar growing conditions were reported in the central western region of Bouafle and in the central region of Yamoussoukro.

However, farmers were optimistic about the outlook for the mid-crop after light rainfall in the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt.

"It's looking like it will be OK. We have sufficient fruit on the trees for a good mid-crop," said farmer Salame Kone, who farms in the outskirts of Soubre.

"If we have three good rains in April, the bean quality will be very good compared to last year," he added.

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

Farmers reported abundant rainfall in the centre-western region of Dalao which accounts for about a quarter of national output.

Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Susan Thomas

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