Flooding fears in Ivory Coast's cocoa regions as disease spreads

Workers fill sacks with cocoa beans in Kahin village at the edge of Scio forest reserve in Duekoue, Ivory Coast. [Reuters]
Heavy rain in Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions threatens to compromise bean quality, raising fears of flooding and crop disease, farmers said on Monday.

Harvesting started early for the October-to-March main crop, and farmers expect it to be larger than last year’s.

But a lack of sunshine and rainfall up to four times higher than average could cause high moisture content in the first beans, increasing the risk of mould. Diseases have started spreading but not yet reaching worrying levels, farmers said.

As a result, farmers in the western region of Duekoue say they might not be able to wait until the market season opens in October to sell their beans at higher prices.

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“We have a few beans. With this weather, it will be hard ... to store them and keep them in good shape until the marketing season starts,” said Ali Diomande, who farms near Duekoue.

“If the sun comes out a lot, we will suffer fewer losses and the main crop will be abundant,” he added, echoing a sentiment expressed by farmers across the country.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in the western region of Man, was 76 millimetres (mm) last week, 37.1 mm above the five-year average.

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In the southern region of Divo, rainfall was at 62.8 mm last week, 46.7 mm above the average. Rains were also above average in the southern region of Agboville and in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of national output, farmers said black pod disease was spreading.

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“The rains happened too close to one another. There are risks of flooding because the water in the rivers is rising,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa.

“Black pod disease is not disastrous yet. There was a lot of sun yesterday and this morning. This could help,” he added.

Data collected by Reuters showed 71.9 mm of rainfall last week in Daloa, 43.4 mm above the five-year average.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they had noticed no serious damage in plantations.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre, which includes the regions of San Pedro and Sassandra, was 61.4 mm last week, 46.1 mm above the five-year average.

Average temperatures ranged from 23.8 to 25.7 degrees Celsius, data showed.

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