July 9, 2018 / 1:58 PM / 12 days ago

Ivory Coast cocoa farmers buoyed by strong flowering

ABIDJAN, July 9 (Reuters) - Abundant flowers on Ivory Coast’s cocoa trees last week have raised hopes for a strong October-to-March main crop, farmers said on Monday, despite below-average rainfall.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is wrapping up its April-to-September mid-crop and preparing for the 2018/2019 season, which opens in October this year.

Crops have been helped by strong rains in recent weeks and farmers said more regular rainfall and sunshine in July and August will be crucial for flowers to bloom and develop into small pods.

“The soil is still moist and the flowers are a good sign,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms in the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output.

“If it rains well through August we think trees will fill with pods over the next three months,” said N’Zue.

Data collected by Reuters shows that rainfall in Daloa, which includes the region of Bouafle, was at 18.5 millimeters (mm) last week, 5.6 mm below the five-year average.

Farmers were also satisfied with flowering in the southern region of Divo, the central region of Yamoussoukro, the southeastern region of Aboisso and the western region of Man.

Rainfall in Divo was at 22.3 mm last week, 5 mm below the five-year average, and at 34 mm in Aboisso, 4.1 mm below average.

Yamoussoukro was the only region with sufficient rainfall at 37.9 mm, 15.1 mm above average. The western region of Man received 22.2 mm of rain, 5.7 mm below average.

But in the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said more downpours were needed to boost the main crop.

“The trees have a higher number of flowers than last week, but we still need more rain for the next season to be abundant,” said Lazare Ake, who farms near Soubre.

Data showed that rainfall in Soubre, including San Pedro and Sassandra was at 8 mm last week, 27.5 mm below the five-year average. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Mark Potter)

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