Cocoa production in Ghana is expected to fall by at least 31% in 2021/22 from the season before, industry sources said on Thursday, due to growing conditions described by one exporter as "catastrophic".
Ghana is the world's second biggest cocoa producer after its neighbour Ivory Coast. Its output exceeded one million tonnes for the first time last season.
The yearly Harmattan wind blowing from across the Sahara was particularly harsh this year and added to a period of severe drought, stunting the growth of cocoa pods, exporters, pod counters and sources at industry regulator COCOBOD told Reuters.
"We all agree on one thing. Ghana's total production will not exceed 710,000-720,000 tonnes this year, mainly because of a climate that has been catastrophic for cocoa," said the director of a European export company.
Six exporters based in Ghana and four pod counters who track the growth on farms across the country gave similar figures.
A source at COCOBOD said he did not expect output to exceed 725,000 tonnes, which would be a 31% drop from last season and the smallest crop in at least three years.
"For the moment this is what we expect, but it could go up or down depending on the size of the mid-crop," said the COCOBOD source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Ghana's mid-crop harvest begins in June. Last year the mid-crop was strong and reached about 250,000 tonnes. This year it is expected to reach between 70,000 and 80,000 tonnes, depending on the weather, said a source at COCOBOD.
"I believe 80,000 tonnes will be the maximum if all goes well. If the drought continues, it will be much less than that," said a pod counter who visited Ghana in early April.