Ivory Coast Cocoa Crop Spared Damage From Sahara Winds

Cocoa output in Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of the beans, will be close to last year’s level as the Harmattan winds that blow from the Sahara Desert are ending this year without having damaged the crop.

Growers in Ivory Coast will harvest 1.42 million metric tons of cocoa in the 2012-13 season started Oct. 1, according to the mean in a survey of 13 analysts, brokers and traders. That is 6.8 percent more than the 1.33 million tons that brokerage Marex Spectron estimated on Nov. 15, and 3.8 percent lower than last year, data from the London-based International Cocoa Organization showed.

“Since last week, the Harmattan is withdrawing, pushed away by the clouds,” Antoine Kouassi Koffi, an Abidjan, Ivory Coast-based agro-meteorology engineer at the National Meteorological Service, said by phone yesterday from the central town of Bouake. “The Harmattan has been short and moderate with little consequences for cocoa.”

The dry and dusty winds from the desert, which are typical in West Africa from December through January and can damage the cocoa crop, arrived late this year, helping soil to retain moisture from rains. Precipitation in most areas in West Africa has been above-average since Oct. 24, according to Joe D’Aleo, chief agriculture meteorologist at Weatherbell Analytics LLC.

“Last year the Harmattan in West Africa was stronger than normal, the rain ended earlier, in October,” D’Aleo said by phone from Hudson, New Hampshire. “This year it’s weaker and they are getting coastal showers, which is a little bit unusual for the dry season. It should be wetter than normal and more moist than normal in the next two or three months.”

Mid-Crop

Ivory Coast’s 2012-13 cocoa crop will still be smaller than the 1.476 million tons produced last year, the Bloomberg survey and ICCO data showed. Rainfall from May to September last year was “significantly” below average, impacting the development of the main crop, which runs from October to March, D’Aleo said. Above-average precipitation in the February-to-April period will be favorable to the mid-crop, the smaller of two annual harvests that usually starts in April, he said.

Cocoa for March delivery rose 0.4 percent to 1,449 pounds ($2,299) a ton on NYSE Liffe in London today, after declining 2.7 percent yesterday.

To contact the reporters on this story: Isis Almeida in London at Ialmeida3@bloomberg.net Olivier Monnier in Abidjan at omonnier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at Ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.

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