April 30, 2018 / 2:43 PM / a month ago

Caterpillar infestation threatens Ivory Coast cocoa mid-crop

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Caterpillars are eating into cocoa crops in coastal regions of Ivory Coast, threatening what so far has been a promising April-to-September mid-crop, farmers said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Cocoa pods are seen in a cocoa farm in Anyama, Ivory Coast July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo

An agronomist who advises farmers in San Pedro region told Reuters about 200 hectares are already affected by caterpillars eating cocoa pods and leaves in the world’s biggest producer.

“We will have a lot of losses. The caterpillars are ravaging many pods and leaves in the plantations,” said Apollinaire Boa, who farms in the outskirts of Sassandra. Other farmers in San Pedro and Sassandra expressed similar concerns.

The caterpillar problem appeared to be so far isolated to the coastal regions and elsewhere farmers said rain and sun last week had helped crops and that harvesting had picked up. Rainy season downpours are expected to become heavy in the coming weeks, aiding crops further.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said the soil moisture content could support the crop for two months.

Even if it’s very hot in the weeks ahead, the trees will not suffer and the pods will grow well,” said Salame Kone, who farms in the outskirts of Soubre. “We will have enough large beans for the next two months.”

Data collected by Reuters showed that rainfall in the Soubre region was 14.3 millimeters (mm) last week, 10.9 mm below average.

In the center-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s output, farmers said they were hoping for wet weather to boost the crop there.

“We need abundant and regular rains right now to make things better and to make the crop long,” said Albert N’Zue, who farms near Daloa, which received 17.3 mm of rain last week, 6.7 mm below average.

Farmers remained optimistic the western region of Man, and in the eastern region of Abengourou.

Data showed that 41.1 mm of rain fell last week in Man, which includes Duekoue, 17.6 mm above average.

The eastern region of Abengourou, which includes Aboisso, received 5.6 mm of rain last week, 21 mm below average.

Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Edward McAllister/David Evans

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