Cocoa production in top producer Ivory Coast is down 10% percent from the same period last season, port arrival figures show, and farmers and buyers worry the trend could continue through the end of the main-crop harvest.
Ivory Coast is currently in its main October-to-March cocoa crop season, the largest of the West African country's two annual harvests.
But more than two dozen farmers and buyers interviewed by Reuters in Ivory Coast's primary cocoa-producing regions said output is already declining.
What was initially written off as a slow start to the season could persist through March, with pods and flowers developing much slower than in previous years, they said.
"At first we thought the crop in October was just late, but so far we don't see anything changing," said Saliou Diakité, who runs a five-hectare farm in Soubré, the heart of the country's cocoa belt.
Diakité harvested seven bags of cocoa in October, down from 15 during the same period in 2020. He filled five bags in November, after collecting 13 last year.
Peak Harvest Season
November and December typically mark peak harvest season in Ivory Coast, but November's weak performance has left buyers and middlemen at the country's main ports pessimistic for the rest of the season.
Amidou Sylla, a middleman who sources cocoa from farms to the port of San Pedro, is already looking forward to the mid-crop harvest, which will begin in April.
"I don't think December alone will make up for everything we lost," Sylla said. "Farmers have just a few beans drying, and a few yellow and green pods in the fields."
Cocoa futures fell to four-month lows on Tuesday.