October 9, 2017 / 1:57 PM / 9 days ago

Heavy rain, disease threaten Ivory Coast's main cocoa crop

ABIDJAN, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Heavy rain hit parts of Ivory Coast’s main cocoa growing regions last week, damaging crops and fuelling the spread of disease, although expectations in other areas remain optimistic, farmers said on Monday.

The 2017/18 season officially started on Oct. 1, with a government guaranteed price for farmers of 700 CFA francs ($1.27) per kg.

“It rains too much here. Rivers are overflowing and we cannot travel for the harvests,” said farmer Etienne Yao, based in the southeastern region of Aboisso. “The rain has made many young fruits fall from the trees and we cannot dry them,” said Yoa.

Data collected by Reuters showed that rainfall in the Aboisso region including Abengourou was at 81.8 mm, or 59.6 mm above average.

Farmers in the central western region of Daloa said rainfall had decreased and they expected more sunny spells to help fight black pod disease.

“There are harvests. A lot of cocoa will be produced between November and January,” said Albert N‘Zue, who farms in the outskirts of Daloa.

Rain in the Daloa region including Bouafle was at 33.2 mm, 11.2 above average but much lower than the 126 mm of rainfall observed last week. Forecast average temperatures ranged from 26.6 to 28 degrees Celsius.

In the western Soubre region, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers maintained positive expectations.

“We have sun and good soil humidity,” said Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre, adding that harvests are set to be abundant over the next two weeks.

According to data collected by Reuters, soil moisture content in the Soubre region including San Pedro and Sassandra was at 494.9 mm in September, 427.8 mm above the norm.

Good growing conditions were reported in the southern region of Divo, which saw 44.5 mm of rain last week, or 23.7 mm above average.

Farmers also reported good growing conditions in the Man region, along the Liberian border, where last week rain was at 20.9 mm, 3.4 mm below average. ($1 = 551.0000 CFA francs) (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Sofia Christensen and David Evans)

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