ABIDJAN, April 18 (Reuters) - Heavy rain in several of Ivory Coast’s main cocoa growing regions last week has raised fears of lower production during the April-September mid-crop due to falling pods and disease, farmers said on Tuesday.
The mid-crop marketing season in Ivory Coast, the world’s top producer, opened on April 1 with a guaranteed farmgate price of 700 CFA francs ($1.13) per kilogramme, which the government slashed by 36 percent last month.
“The rain falls heavily on the trees. There is a risk that the flowers and the cherelles will drop from the trees and reduce the harvest,” said Amare Kone, who farms on the outskirts of the western town of Duekoue.
“We are experiencing drying problems because the humidity is very strong in the bush,” Kone said.
In Soubre, in the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers reported at least two downpours in the past week.
“We need lots of sunshine because there is too much humidity under the trees. Otherwise, there will be diseases and insects soon,” said Kouassi Kouame, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre.
“We see on the trees a mix of lots of cherelles and medium-sized pods that can assure a long harvest,” Kouame said.
In the centre-western region of Daloa, which accounts for about a quarter of national output, farmers reported good rainfall that boosts yields though complicates transportation.
“There is a proliferation of cherelles on the trees in certain areas. We expect large harvests between June and July,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa.
But he added: “The roads have started to deteriorate and it is difficult to quickly move out the beans.”
In southern region of Aboisso, farmers said they feared flooding from the heavy rains.
“We fear that the stream will overflow and reach our plantations,” said Etienne Yao, who farms near Aboisso.
In the eastern region of Abengourou, however, known for the high quality of its beans, farmers said strong sunshine and poor rainfall were damaging the crop.
“The trees have not produced lots of fruit. The harvests will be very weak this season,” said Michel Kacou, who farms near Abengourou. ($1 = 618.1000 CFA francs) (Reporting By Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Aaron Ross and David Evans)