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Ivory Coast’s Coastal Cocoa Farmers Say Drought Threatens Crop

A drought along the coastal areas of southwestern Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, is raising farmers’ concern before the start of the main-crop harvest.

“We haven’t seen big rains since the rainy season started one month and a half ago,” Antoine Nabo, who owns a 15-hectare (37-acre) cocoa farm in Tui, near the port city of San Pedro, said in an interview on July 29. “There has been only some scattered rains. But it’s not enough.”

The western coast around Sassandra and San Pedro is most affected by the lack of rainfall, Antoine Kouassi Koffi, an Abidjan-based agro-meteorology engineer at the country’s National Meteorological Service, said by phone yesterday.

Ivory Coast, which accounts for 34 percent of global cocoa output, needs adequate rain and sunshine to develop pods in the period before the October start of the main harvest. The lack of rain may prevent the flowers that develop into pods from growing, especially amid cool weather conditions, Koffi said.

“This region is facing a serious shortage of rains,” he said. “The situation is crucial as we are in the middle of a period of flowering.”

Some leaves have already started to turn yellow on cocoa trees while some pods have turned black, said Nabo.

August Rains

San Pedro received no rain from July 11 to July 20 and 2.1 millimeters from July 1 to July 10, according to figures from the National Meteorological Service. Sassandra recorded 0.3 millimeters of rainfall in the second 10 days of July and 27.3 millimeters from July 1 to July 10, the figures showed.

The situation could be improved if rain begins falling soon, Salifou Ouedraogo, who runs a cocoa farmers’ cooperative in San Pedro, said on July 29.

“If it rains heavily in the first two weeks of August, flowers should be able to regenerate rapidly,” he said.

Better rainfall has been recorded in other key cocoa-growing regions including Gagnoa, Daloa and Soubre, Koffi said. Daloa received 37.2 millimeters of rain from July 11 to July 20 and Yamoussoukro, the country’s central capital got 59.9 millimeters, according to the meteorological service’s data.

“The situation is fine,” Adama Doumbia, a farmer in Toroguhe, near the central town of Daloa, said by phone yesterday. “We’ve had so far a good mix of sun and rain.”

Cocoa for December delivery increased 1.3 percent to 1,613 pounds ($2,529) a metric ton by 4:15 p.m. yesterday on the NYSE Liffe exchange in London.

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