Ivory Coast Rains Have Cocoa Farmers on Edge for New Season

A month into the new cocoa season, farmers in top grower Ivory Coast are getting anxious, as heavy rains continue to flood roads and plantations and spark concerns about rotting crops. Many roads are unusable around Sassandra in the southwest, one of the major growing regions, and buyers’ trucks can’t get to the villages to collect cocoa beans, said Joseph Ouedraogo, who farms in the area. Unusually wet and cloudy weather also means that beans aren’t drying properly and are getting spoiled, he said. “There is mud everywhere, the rivers have flooded all the roads,” said Ouedraogo. “The situation is bad.”

Unfavorable weather in the top producer may further boost cocoa prices after bumper crops last season in Ivory Coast and neighboring Ghana helped push the market into a large global surplus. Cocoa futures in New York are headed for a back-to-back monthly gain for the first time since November 2015. Output in both Ivory Coast and Ghana will probably fall by more than 10 percent in the new season, BMI Research said in a report on Oct. 24. There are already indications that the Ivorian harvest will be smaller this year. The country’s farmers sent 160,000 tons of cocoa to ports in the first four weeks of the new season, compared with 195,000 tons for the same period last year, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

In the central-west town of Vavoua, north of Daloa, it’s been raining heavily and regularly, said Isidore Gore, who farms in the area. The weather isn’t good for cocoa development, he said. “There’s no mix of rain and sun; when it isn’t raining the weather is cloudy.” Cocoa plantations are difficult to access as heavy rains continue in the far west of the country as well, said Rigoberto Gueugbeu, a farmer in the village of Bin Houye. In the south, it’s raining every second day and a lot of main roads have been affected, said Bertrand Yapo, who farms in Adzope.

In other West African cocoa producers:

- There’s been an even mix of rain and sunshine, with showers on four of the past seven days, said Michael Acheampong, a farmer with 80 hectares of cocoa in Kwarbeng, in the eastern part of the country.
- “The trees are flowering again and new pods are developing, he said. “All things being equal, we expect another good crop in the coming season.”
- The crop will be later than usual, with the peak of the harvest expected between December and January, Acheampong said.

- It rained consistently last week, making harvesting difficult for farmers, said Henri Michel Atangana, a grower in Obala, north of the capital, Yaounde.
- Farmers are struggling to afford pesticides and fertilizers and some growers are choosing to sell fresh cocoa at subsidized rates to unauthorized buyers

- Harvests have improved lately in the southeast area around Ikom, said Nneji Abang, who has a 5-hectare farm in the village of Akparabong.
- Deliveries to local buyers’ stores have increased by more than 60 percent from a month ago and increased sunshine has reduced concerns about black-pod disease, he said.
- In the southwest, farmers continue to struggle and many have lost their early crops due to poor weather, black-pod disease and a worm infestation, said Rufus Orosundafosi, who owns a 120 hectare cocoa farm near Akure.
- The weather has improved and farmers are emphasizing spraying of chemicals and cleaning farms, said Orosundafosi.

Fuente: Bloomberg Markets

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