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ABIDJAN: Unseasonably heavy rains mixed with sun last week in most of Ivory Coast's cocoa regions, improving prospects for the April-to-September mid-crop harvest, farmers said on Monday.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, is in its dry season, which runs until March. Farmers said they were pleased with the rainfall and the weakness of this year's Harmattan winds, which sweep in dust from the Sahara Desert.

"The mid-crop looks to be abundant. We have lots of cherelles and small pods on the trees," said Salame Kone, who farms in the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre was 12.9 millimetres (mm) last week, 9.3 mm above the five-year average.

In the centre of the country, the region of Yamoussoukro saw 67.5 mm of rain last week, 66.3 mm above the average, and Bongouanou received 23 mm, 21.8 mm above the average.

In the southern regions of Agboville and Divo and the centre-western region of Daloa, farmers said they were encouraged by the prospects for the mid-crop.

However, slow demand for cocoa linked to a drop in global demand for chocolate during the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting farmers hard.

In the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of it beans, farmers said some growers were smuggling their cocoa into neighbouring Ghana in search of buyers.