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June 29, 2011

Heavy rains damage Ivory Coast cocoa

by Loucoumane Coulibaly

Heavy rains in Southeastern Ivory Coast have hurt the region's cocoa sector, hindering drying and fermenting operations and damaging key roads to market, farmers said.

The downpours come amid rising concern over bean quality in the world's top grower nation, after exporters said much of the 15,000 tonnes of beans arriving at ports last week was not suitable for shipment.

"It has rained too much. The roads are blocked, there are lots of floods and the farmers are having trouble working on the plantations," said Paul Essien, who farms near Aboisso, around 100 km (60 miles) east of Abidjan. "We need lots of sun in July, otherwise the quality will degrade sharply and diseases will appear. We fear a decline in prices in the coming weeks," he said.

Some 203.2 millimetres of rain fell in the Aboisso region last week, according to meteorologist readings.

Elsewhere in Ivory Coast, farmers said they had seen less rain and more spells of sunshine, easing their fears that damp weather would trigger disease on their plantations and interrupt drying and fermenting work.

But they cautioned that weather in July would be key to the outcome of the April-October mid-crop -- with too much rain spelling trouble for quality and pod development.

Ivory Coast's huge cocoa sector is recovering from the effects of a four-month crisis that followed a disputed November election. Farmers struggled to get their plantations back in order after many fled during the conflict.

Cocoa production volumes are running higher than last year at over 1.2 million tonnes this season, but quality has become a top concern since the onset of the rainy season.


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