A prolonged dry spell persisted across Ivory Coast's cocoa-growing regions last week, jeopardising the outcome of the April-to-September mid-crop and potentially delaying the start of the next, farmers have said.
Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, is in its rainy season, which runs from April to mid-November. But the usually heavy downpours have been scarce since the beginning of May.
Farmers told Reuters this was the worst rainy-season dry spell in five years. Harvesting could soon taper off, with cocoa tress carrying far less young fruit than last year, they said.
'Main Concern' For Cocoa Growers
"The rains are late this year it's the main concern among farmers," said Kouassi Kouame, who farms near the western region of Soubre.
Only 3.5 millimetres (mm) of rain fell in Soubre last week, data collected by Reuters showed, 46.2 mm below the region's five-year average.
In the southern regions of Agboville and Divo and in the eastern region of Abengourou, rainfall was equally sparse. Farmers said the lack of moisture was hampering the development of young fruits and they don't expect the mid-crop to finish strong.
In the centre-western region of Daloa, farmers warned the dry spell could hurt not only this year's mid-crop, but also the start of the next growing season. Rainfall in Daloa was just 4.2 mm last week, 21.8 mm below the average.
"If the drought continues, the trees will be weakened and the next crop will not start well," said Arsène Koffi, who farms near Daloa.
Rainfall was also well below average in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro.
Average daily temperatures ranged from 27.1 to 30.8 degrees Celsius last week.