ABIDJAN Good rains in the last week in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions are a positive sign for the development of the mid-crop but hot weather could hurt it, farmers said on Monday.
The dry season in the world's top cocoa producer runs from mid-November to March, while the weather is normally extremely hot between February and March.
"It's starting to be very hot. We should have a good mid-crop harvest if the sun isn't too strong next month," said Amadou Diallo, who farms in the southern region of Divo.
"Compared to last year, there are lots of flowers and cherries on the trees. But if it's too hot the soil will be very dry and the fruits will dry out and fall from the trees," he said.
In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said there were two decent rains in the past week. Good growing conditions were also reported in the southern regions of Aboisso, Agboville and Tiassale and in the coastal region of Sassandra.
In the center-western region of Daloa, which accounts for about a quarter of national output, farmers reported two consecutive rains.
"Things are a bit late here. But if it carries on raining next month and if the soil moisture content is good then we can have cocoa from May or June," said farmer Albert N’Zue.
In the eastern region of Abengourou known for the quality of its beans, farmers said plenty of cocoa leaves were dried and on the ground because of the dry, hot weather.
"It rained but it's late. In lots of plantations all the leaves have fallen, the leaves are suffering," said N'Dri Kouao, who farms in Niable, near the border of Ghana.
"We are not (yet) talking about the mid crop here. We are waiting for rain so that the trees regain their strength," Kouao said.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Ed Osmond)