ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The flowers that will become the cocoa harvested for next season’s main crop have begun to appear in Ivory Coast’s main cocoa growing regions as heavy rains continued to fall last week, farmers and analysts said on Monday.
The April-to-September mid-crop harvest in the world’s top cocoa grower is expected to begin tapering off at the end of this month, and farmers are beginning to look ahead to the next main crop, due to open in October.
Ivory Coast is already on track for a record harvest for the current 2013/14 season, and farmers said the heavy flowering on trees was an early sign of another good harvest next year.
“The flowers are coming out due to the good rains,” said Attoungbre Kouame, who farms western region of Daloa, responsible for around a quarter of Ivory Coast’s cocoa output.
“If the rains continue to fall this month, the harvest will be bigger than this year,” he said.
Despite expectations of a bumper harvest in West Africa, world prices have climbed steadily this year on concerns that growing demand for chocolate will result in a cocoa supply shortfall in the coming years.
Cocoa prices hovered near a 3-year high on Monday. ICE second-month cocoa was down $12 or 0.4 percent at $3,094 per tonne. Liffe September cocoa was down 1 pound or 0.05 percent at 1,923 pounds a tonne.
In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported 68 mm of rainfall, down from 86 mm the previous week.
“We need lots of sun this month. Otherwise lots of the flowers will fall off,” said Lazare Ake, who farms near Soubre. “The mid-crop harvest is continuing. Some buyers are complaining about the moisture levels. There are also mouldy beans.”
The southern regions of Divo and Agboville as well as the western regions of Gagnoa and Duekoue also reported good initial flowering for next season’s main crop.
In coastal regions of San Pedro and Sassandra, farmers said heavy rains continued to prevent them from going to their farms to harvest the last cocoa of the mid-crop.
“It’s a catastrophe. No one can work on their plantations for more than two weeks now. Some cocoa will rot because there’s no one there to take care of it,” said San Pedro farmer Labbe Zoungrana.
In the southern region of Aboisso, farmers said the rains were making it difficult to prepare beans for pick-up.
“We’re no longer able to properly ferment the beans and with the lack of sunshine we worry they’ll rot,” said farmer Etienne Yao.
In the eastern region of Abengourou, farmers said they were happy with the weather.
“In many areas the harvesting is starting to drop. By the end of the month there won’t be much left,” said Joseph Amani, who farms near Abengourou.
“The farmers are preparing to treat their plantations with phytosanitary products. The weather is good for a robust beginning of the main crop flowering.”