Heavy rains in Ivory Coast may help cocoa crop

A farmer works in a cocoa farm at Guire, a village of Soubre, in southwestern Ivory Coast June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Unseasonably heavy rains last week in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions during the dry season will boost chances for a large and healthy main crop, farmers said on Monday, but there were concerns about too little sunshine. The dry season in the world's top cocoa producer stretches from mid-November to March. Farmers will also need to contend with the Harmattan, a dry dusty wind that normally sweeps in from the Sahara from December to March. When severe the Harmattan can kill small pods and drain soil moisture, making cocoa beans smaller. In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported 36 millimeters of rains this week, about even with 35 mm during the previous period. Salam Kone, who farms in the outskirts of Soubre, said there was a great deal of green foliage from the rains. "If we have a little rain and a lot of sun in the two coming weeks, the trees and the fruits will be able to resist the dry season and the Harmattan well to produce many beans," said Kone. In the center-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s national output, farmers reported rain showers during the week. Albert N'Zue, a farmer near Daloa, said plantations had increased the number of workers to attend to pods in recent weeks. "We are expecting some very significant harvests from here during the end of year holidays," said N'Zue. In the southern region of Aboisso, farmers said it had rained so much that some areas were flooded. "We are having trouble drying the beans well and we fear we'll see pod sicknesses if these kinds of rains continue," said Etienne Yao, who farms in the outskirts of Aboisso. Good growing conditions were reported in the southern regions Agboville and Tiassale, in the western regions Duekoue and Gagnoa and in the coastal regions San Pedro and Sassandra. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Makini Brice and William Hardy)