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Ivorian Cocoa Crop Crimped

FILE: Men pour out cocoa beans to dry in Niable, Ivory Coast. Taken Jun. 19, 2014.
FILE: Men pour out cocoa beans to dry in Niable, Ivory Coast. Taken Jun. 19, 2014.

Cocoa arrivals at world top producer Ivory Coast's main ports of Abidjan and San Pedro have slumped since the beginning of the year as erratic and insufficient rainfall hit crop output, exporters and farmers said on Thursday.

Weekly port arrivals fell to about 70,000 tons from around 115,000 tons in November and December last year, according to exporters' estimates.

Total arrivals since the start of the season on Oct. 1 reached 1.540 million tons by Jan. 29.

The drop in beans arrivals is expected to last until the end of the main harvest in February and March, and might extend into the first two months of the mid-crop harvest in April and May if rains do not arrive with more regularity, exporters, farmers and buyers told Reuters.

"The drop is drastic and sudden. We were very high in December and suddenly everything collapsed in January," said a director of a cocoa export company based in Abidjan and San Pedro.

Some farmers have only been able to harvest half of an 80 kg jute bag in two weeks, compared with a harvest of around 8 bags per week between October and December.

Cocoa farming requires heavy rainfall with spells of sunshine for drying of beans. The West and Central Africa region however, is in the middle of its dry season, which runs from mid-November to March.

"We haven't had much rain since September. Just one or two rains in October and December, but nothing that can really help cocoa grow well," said farmer Edouard Kouame Kouadio, who owns 5 hectares of cocoa in Gabeadji village near San-Pedro.

Eleven other farmers interviewed by Reuters also blamed the weather. They said the situation has been worsened by the lack of fertilizers, whose prices have doubled since 2021.

Ivory Coast's main cocoa crop harvest runs from October to March, while the smaller mid-crop runs from April to September.

"Purchases are slowed by the lack of cocoa, so we preferred to stop everything for the moment and come back in May-June when the cocoa will start to return," said Sidibe Oumar.