March 5, 2019 / 1:34 PM / 17 days ago

Weak rains, heat, dry winds in Ivory Coast threaten cocoa mid-crop

ABIDJAN, March 5 (Reuters) - Hot weather and well-below average rainfall in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa regions last week could jeopardise the quality and the size of the April-to-September crop, while a dry wind raised concerns elsewhere, farmers said on Tuesday.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is entering the rainy season.

Farmers said they had expected downpours to be regular and abundant by mid-March in coastal and southern regions before moving gradually from April into the centre and the north. But some worried about low moisture levels and warm temperatures.

“The trees were promising to begin with but what with the sun and the heat, we’re wondering if the beans will be big,” said Joseph Koffi, who farms in the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans.

“We think the picking of the mid-crop will start by March 20,” he said.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Abengourou, which includes the cocoa farming region of Aboisso, was 2.2 millimetres (mm), 11.2 mm below the five-year average.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers complained about heat and a dry wind.

“There are cherelles and flowers that will dry out if the weather remains like this for a week,” said Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre, including the regions of Sassandra and San Pedro, was 1.8 mm last week, 8.7 mm below the five-year average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output, farmers the ground was dry.

“We need heavy rainfall this week or at the start of next week,” said Raphael Kouame, who farms near Daloa.

Rainfall in the region of Daloa, including the Bouafle region, was 0.1 mm last week, 13.4 mm below the five-year average.

Similar issues were raised in other regions, where rainfall was below average.

Average temperatures ranged between 28 and 31.04 degrees Celsius. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly Editing by Edmund Blair)

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