Ivory Coast’s cocoa harvest could be longer and more abundant than last year’s after weeks of rains and sunshine, farmers said on Monday.
Harvesting for the October-to-March main crop in the world’s top cocoa producer started earlier than usual, but farmers are weary of selling their beans before the official start of season, when earnings could be higher.
Rains also damaged rural roads last week, preventing farmers from shipping their beans to warehouses.
But weeks of sustained rains and sunshine will help trees grow and lead to a longer harvest, farmers said.
"We have rain and the sunshine is getting better. We think there will be a lot of cocoa this year," said Salame Kone, who farms in the outskirts of Soubre, echoing optimism among other farmers in the western region at the heart of the cocoa belt.
"There will be plenty of harvests in the coming weeks as the number of pods growing is going up a lot," he added.
Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre, which includes the regions of San Pedro and Sassandra, was 19.2 millimetres (mm) last week, 1.3 mm above the five-year average.
Rains were above average and good growing conditions were reported in the western region of Man, in the southern region of Divo and in the eastern region of Abengourou.
In the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, rains were below average but farmers said output was expected to be higher than last year’s, as pods on trees were growing rapidly.
In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s national output, farmers said it was difficult to ship beans to their warehouses as rural roads were damaged after recent rains.
"The road are unusable. It is very hard to get the production out in some places," said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa.
But fears from previous weeks that heavy rains could lead to crop diseases and a drop in quality had not entirely subsided.
"The crops are still very humid. We will need a lot of sun to avoid the risk of disease," N’Zue said.
Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in the region of Daloa, which includes the region of Bouafle was 26 mm last week, 4.6 mm below the five-year average.
Average temperatures ranged from 24.7 to 25.9 degrees Celsius, data showed.