Dry winds in Ivory Coast raise concerns for cocoa crops

A lack of rainfall across most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa regions combined with Harmattan winds have raised concerns about the quality of new crops, farmers said on Monday.

Ivory Coast is in the dry season which runs from mid-November to March, when downpours are scarce. Farmers said they are shifting their focus from the main crop to the April-to-September mid-crop.

The Harmattan, a dusty wind from the Sahara that typically arrives between December and March, can slash cocoa output and damage the quality of beans by killing small pods and drying out the soil. Last year, strong winds caused severe damage.

In the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans, farmers reported no rainfall and an increasingly strong Harmattan.

"For the past week, the Harmattan is there and it is intense," said farmer and cooperative manager N'Dri Kouao, who farms near Niable, on the border with Ghana. "What worries us is that it came late and it is unpredictable."

In the centre-west region of Daloa, which accounts for about a quarter of national cocoa output, farmers reported no rain and a strong Harmattan since Friday.

"If it becomes stronger and lasts two weeks, we will have problems with the quality in February and March," said Albert N'Zue, who farms near Daloa, adding that the dry wind could reduce volumes.

In the western region of Soubre in the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers also reported no rainfall and Harmattan winds.

Similar growing conditions were reported in southern regions of Aboisso, Agboville and Divo.

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