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Cocoa Growers in Ecuador Seek Aid After Rains, Volcano, El Nino

Ecuador’s cocoa producers said they need help from the government because of adverse weather, the prospects of crop damage from El Nino and the impact of a volcanic eruption.

About 50 percent of cocoa trees in Ecuador, the world’s biggest grower of flavored beans used in fine chocolate, have already been affected by heavy rain this year. Local forecasters expect more harmful conditions as the El Nino weather pattersbrings more precipitation, Ivan Ontaneda, the president of the National Cocoa Exporters Association, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Guayaquil.

Farmers, located mostly in Ecuador’s coastal and piedmont regions, face slower demand from China and Europe, while the dollar’s rally has eroded the appeal of exports priced in the greenback. This year’s harvest may trail the group’s June forecast of 230,000 metric tons if the weather worsens, Ontaneda said.

“The damage from very aggressive temperature changes has caused blights in almost all of Ecuador,” said Ontaneda, also the chief executive officer of Guayaquil-based cocoa exporter Eco-Kakao SA. “We’re going to have less cocoa production, and if the rains from El Nino start in October or November, we could have even less.”

Ash from a volcano erupting about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, Quito, is hurting some trees on the western slopes of the Andes, Ontaneda said. Flower development that should be taking place now in the provinces of Cotopaxi and Pichincha has been stunted, he said. Those areas contribute 8 percent of the nation’s total harvest, he said.

El Nino

El Nino has the potential to affect weather and harvests around the globe by baking parts of Asia, dumping rain across South America and bringing cooler summers to North America. The last severe cycle to strike Ecuador in 1998 and 1999 destroyed about half of the cocoa crop, Ontaneda said. “We’re sending an alert before the situation gets worse,” Ontaneda said. “We’re really worried.” Cocoa for December delivery rose 0.3 percent to $3,126 a ton at 10:11 a.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in New York. Through Wednesday, the price climbed 7.1 percent this year.

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Source: Bloomberg News

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