Rainfall provides some relief in key Ivory Coast cocoa regions

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Patchy rains fell last week in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa regions, offering some relief after a persistent drought and hot weather had risked damaging the mid crop, farmers said on Monday. "There should be rain on the coast and in the forest zone this week and next week," said an Abidjan-based agrometerologist who declined to be identified. The dry season in Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, runs from mid-November to March but intermittent showers are needed to help develop the April-to-September mid-crop. In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported 25 millimetres of rain last week after no rain at all in the previous week. "There were three days of rains and it will do lots of good for the trees that have been suffering," said Lazare Ake, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre town. "If it rains steadily in March we think we can hope that we will have good cocoa from June." Similar conditions were reported in the southern region of Aboisso and the western regions of Bouafle and Gagnoa. However, concerns are rising in the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a fourth of Ivory Coast's cocoa output, with farmers saying a prolonged lack of rain coupled with sunny spells had damaged the crop. "We are pessimistic. Everything is dry on our farms and we do not know how the cocoa will come out during the light crop," said Raphael Kouadio, who farms near Daloa. "If it starts to rain now there will be a chance to save the trees." There were similar concerns in the southern region of Divo and in the eastern region of Abengourou. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Susan Fenton)