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Ivory Coast Cocoa Farmers Get Relief as Rains Return Early

Updated on
  • Rainfall will help development of the smaller mid-crop
  • Smuggling of beans into Ghana remains a problem in the east

Workers harvest cocoa fruit from trees.

Photographer: Jose Cendon

Cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast, the world’s top producer, got some welcome relief in the past week with higher-than-normal rainfall across the main growing regions.

It rained heavily on Wednesday night for more than six hours, said Robert Glaou, a farmer in the western town of Bangolo. Harmattan conditions have ended, he said, referring to winds from the Sahara that bring dry weather and coolness to West Africa from December to February.

“The weather is currently very good,” said Narcisse Konan, the head of a cooperative in southwest Ivory Coast. “There were small pods on the trees and we needed some rain to make them stronger.” The Harmattan overall was very mild this year, he said.

Ivory Coast is nearing the end of its main crop, the larger of two cocoa harvests that runs from October to March. The rain will help development of the smaller mid-crop, although wet weather tends to slow harvesting.

Satellite imagery from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center for Feb. 18 to 24 suggests well-above-average rainfall across Ivory Coast, as well as the biggest-producing regions of neighboring Ghana, the No. 2 grower.

Small Pods

“It has been raining in the area for several days,” said Jeannot Assi, a farmer in the southern town of Alepe, in Ivory Coast. “We are now seeing flowers and small pods” on the trees.

There has also been heavy rain in Tiebissou, in the center of Ivory Coast, that will allow the trees to bloom, said farmer Moussa Kouassi. Growers have begun maintenance work for the mid-crop harvest, he said.

While the weather has improved, harvesting volumes have decreased as the main crop peters out and farmers in the west and southwest said they’ve seen bean size and quality deteriorate.

“The beans are small,” said Vincent Zadi, a farmer in Grand Zatry, in the southwest. More rains are needed to help the cocoa trees to bloom and produce small pods, he said.

For farmers in the east of the country, the smuggling of beans into neighboring Ghana remains the biggest concern, said farmer Kobenan Kouame.

Cocoa futures climbed 1 percent to $2,215 a metric ton in New York Monday, extending the gain this year to 17 percent.
In other West African cocoa-producing countries:

  • Dryness continued in south-central Ghana and is negatively affecting crops, Boadi Yeboah, 69, who oversees a group of 2,000 farmers around Kwabeng, said Friday.
    • There was “only a short period of drizzle last Thursday and that was the first sign of rain in weeks.”
  • In Cameroon, there was some light rain last week that resulted in early flowering of some cocoa trees, said Ojong James, a farmer near Buea, in the west of the country
    • There’s a risk those flowers may struggle as normal seasonal dryness resumes, but rain should fall again in March.
  • In eastern Nigeria, farmers are optimistic about the mid-crop as periods of mildly hot and humid weather help new flowers develop on many trees, said Emajore Mapair, a grower in Taraba state; there is no dust and soil moisture levels are good.
    • In the southwest of the country, it rained consistently for four days and plantations are looking healthy with bright green leaves on every tree and new flowers emerging, said Yakubu Aminu, a farmer in Edo state; there’s some concern about potential flooding.

— With assistance by Olivier Monnier, Pius Lukong, Tolani Awere, and Ekow Dontoh

(Updates with cocoa price one paragraph under graphic.)
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