Above-average rain in some cocoa-growing areas of southwestern Ivory Coast, the world’s top producer, is benefiting this season’s crops, easing concern slow bean deliveries next year will deepen global shortages.
Humid winds from the south of the West African nation and low-pressure coming from the Sahel mean some regions have been wetter than usual, Antoine Kouassi Koffi, an Abidjan-based independent agro-meteorology engineer, said by phone yesterday. Rainfall is helping pod development before the return of Harmattan, dry and dusty winds from the desert, which are typical from December through January and can damage crops, according to Lome, Togo-based lender Ecobank Transnational Inc.
Global cocoa supplies are forecast to fall short of demand by 162,000 metric tons in the 2013-14 season started Oct. 1, estimates KnowledgeCharts, a unit of researcher Commodities Risk Analysis in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While bean deliveries to Ivorian ports are ahead of last year’s, arrivals could “tail-off sharply” from January onward, said Edward George, head of soft commodities research at Ecobank.
“It rains a lot, which is unusual for this period of the year, but not too much and it’s also very sunny,” Narcisse Konan, head of a 500-cocoa farmer cooperative, said in an interview Nov. 27 in Meagui, in the country’s southwest region. “This is good for the cocoa trees.”
Cocoa futures gained 24 percent in New York this year, entering a bull market in August. The beans used to make chocolate are the best performer in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI gauge of 24 raw materials. Prices gained as demand rebounded, with chocolate confectionery sales set to rise to a record $117 billion in 2014, according to Euromonitor International Ltd.
Greater-than-forecast rainfall this month means the main harvest, the bigger of two annual crops sold from October to March, may be extended, Moussa Zoungrana, head of a farmer cooperative in the central-western town of Duekoue, said by phone yesterday. That may help ease concern bean arrivals at ports will slow down at the beginning of next year.
“With more rain than usual in November, the harvest may continue in January and February,” Zoungrana said. “Usually, by mid-November we’ve already entered the dry season, but at the moment, the rain is abundant. The cycle of production of cocoa is completely changing.”
Cocoa bean deliveries to ports in Ivory Coast gained 47 percent to 436,000 tons from the start of the season through Nov. 24, according to a KnowledgeCharts estimate. That compares with 296,000 tons in the same period a year earlier. The surge in deliveries was driven by “good weather” across West Africa, which is helping bean drying, said Ecobank’s George.
“The focus is now on the seasonal Harmattan winds, which can bring dry weather to the region and which, in previous seasons, have resulted in a sharp drop in deliveries,” he said in a report e-mailed yesterday.
The central-western town of Daloa, which produces about 300,000 tons of cocoa a year, got 8.81 centimeters (3.5 inches) of rainfall from Nov. 11-20, almost five times more than the long-term averages, according to Ivory Coast’s National Meteorological Service. In the southwestern town of Sassandra, in the Soubre region, there was 12.8 centimeters of precipitation compared with an average of 5.4 centimeters.
“The rain is good news because it means the production of the mid-crop will be good,” Bakary Traore, who farms a 4 hectare (9.4 acre) cocoa plantation in the village of Koreyo near Soubre, said, referring to the smaller of two annual crops that is harvested from April to September.
Farmers in Ivory Coast, which accounts for 34 percent of global cocoa output, are forecast to produce 1.4 million tons of cocoa in 2013-14, little changed from a year earlier, according to government spokesman Bruno Kone. Output is forecast at 1.37 million tons by Ecobank and Macquarie Group Ltd.
“With the rain, trees are more robust,” Konan said, adding the leaves are very green and abundant.