ABIDJAN: Rain fell across most of Ivory Coast's principal cocoa regions last week, ending a month-long dry spell and reviving hopes that main crop harvesting will carry on into March, farmers and analysts said on Monday.
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, saw a late onset to its traditional mid-November to March dry season, with rains continuing into early December.
However, none of its main cocoa regions had received measurable rainfall in the past five weeks, raising fears of an early end of the October to March main crop.
Dry and dusty seasonal Harmattan winds have also dried the soil on many plantations and hindered the development of new cocoa pods.
Bean shipments to Ivory Coast's ports have tapered off in January and quality has also suffered.
In the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the Ivorian cocoa belt, an analyst reported 38 millimetres of rains.
"The farmers are very happy. We had two good showers on the plantations last week. That will do a lot to help the trees, which were beginning to suffer due to the dry spell," said Lazare Ake, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre.
"The quantities of beans coming out of the bush have dropped. But if we have rain in the first week of February, the beans will keep coming out until the end of March," he said.
In the western region of Duekoue, farmers reported two abundant showers but added that dusty Harmattan conditions had returned on Monday.
"The rain will help us have good quality cocoa. There aren't many large pods left on the trees, but harvesting won't stop completely," said Duekoue farmer Amara Kone.
Farmers reported three heavy showers in western region of Gagnoa and one in the central region Divo.
"If we have two abundant rain showers in February, we will still have some cocoa here," said Paul Gnagbe, who farms in Divo.
In the western region of Daloa, responsible for about a quarter of the country's cocoa output, farmers reported one light shower.
"It rained, but it's not enough.
We need more rain in order to really help the trees. This year we didn't have much cocoa during the main crop, because the rains were not good," said Daloa farmer Laurent Kouakou.
Farmers in the eastern region of Abengourou said they received no rain last week.
"We are in a drought and the Harmattan is blowing strongly this morning.
We worry we won't have any cocoa beginning next month," said Joseph Amani, who farms near Abengourou.