ABIDJAN, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Rain in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions last week should boost next year's crop, although hot, dry conditions in some areas ahead of the potentially damaging Harmattan seasonal wind have worried some farmers.
The world's top cocoa producer is officially in its dry season, which runs from mid-November to March, and the Harmattan is now blowing south from the north and centre of the country, analysts told Reuters on Tuesday.
The dry dusty wind typically moves in from the Sahara between December and March. It can slash cocoa output and hurt bean quality by killing small pods and drying out the soil. Last year, strong winds caused severe damage.
"It rained abundantly in the bush. We won't have problems with quality through February and there will be lots of pods on the trees," said Amara Kone, who farms on the outskirts of the western region of Duekoue.
"The Harmattan has not yet appeared. The farmers have many more beans now compared to the same period last year."
Farmers reported similar growing conditions in the southern regions of Aboisso, Agboville, Divo and Tiassale.
Meanwhile, in the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported 33 millimetres of rain last week compared with 30 mm the previous week.
"We notice the Harmattan slightly. The harvest will be abundant in January because we have lots of medium-size pods that have developed on the trees without any problems," said Lazare Ake, who farms on the outskirts of the town of Soubre.
"If the Harmattan remains weak for another two weeks, we will be able to sleep easy because few of the pods will be affected and the main crop harvests will be abundant," Ake said.
In the centre-west region of Daloa, which accounts for about a quarter of national output, farmers reported hot weather and no rain.
"It has been very hot for two weeks. If you add a strong Harmattan to that, we will have many cherelles and small beans that will fall off," said Albert N'Zue, who farms near Daloa.
"The harvests will reach their peak this month for most plantations. We will have many beans to sell because the trees are full of them this year," N'Zue said. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Aaron Ross and Alexander Smith)