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ABIDJAN, July 17 (Reuters) - A mix of healthy rainfall and sunny spells last week in most of Ivory Coast's cocoa regions spurred the growth of flowers and pods, boosting the prospects for a strong start to the upcoming main crop, farmers said on Monday.
Heavy rains and overcast weather in the world's top cocoa producer have resulted in flooding and rot in key regions but a second consecutive week of sunny spells has improved the outlook for the October-March main crop, farmers said.
In the southern region of Aboisso, farmers welcomed the mix of sun and rain and said it was boosting the growth of cherelles.
"The farmers are happy because there has been a lot of sunlight compared to the other weeks since the start of the strong rains," said Etienne Yao, who farms on the outskirts of Aboisso.
"Many of the cherelles have come out and are growing well. We think that the main crop harvest is going to start by mid-September," Yao said.
In the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers reported strong sunny spells and some downpours.
"When we look at how the cherelles and flowers proliferate on the trees ... if the sunshine continues, we will have enough high-quality cocoa until December at least," said Lazare Ake, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre.
"The heat has started to be very strong. That is going to help fight against fungal black pod disease," Ake said.
Similar growing conditions were reported in the southern regions of Agboville, Divo and Tiassale, as well as in the western regions of Duekoue and Gagnoa and the coastal region of Sassandra.
In the centre-western region of Daloa, which accounts for about a quarter of national output, farmers said some small and average-sized pods were already on trees.
"The conditions are good compared to last season. There are more flowers and cherelles on the trees and even some medium-sized pods that will be cut in two months," said Albert N'Zue, who farms near Daloa.
"There is no sign of disease on the trees because the heat is sufficient," N'Zue said. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; editing by Aaron Ross and David Clarke)