Soil moisture offsets low rainfall in Ivory Coast and boosts cocoa mid-harvest

ABIDJAN, May 23 (Reuters)Soil moisture compensated for below-average rainfall in most cocoa growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire last week as the April-September mid-crop continues to develop and produce large fruit, farmers said on Monday.

The world’s largest cocoa producer experiences a rainy season that runs from April to mid-November, when downpours are normally heavy and heavy.

But the rains have been slow to arrive this year and the start of the season has been unusually hot and dry, raising concerns about the quality of mid-harvest yields.

Many farmers said on Monday they were pleased with the pace of the harvest as more cocoa beans left the bush.

Some noted sunny periods would be needed for the beans to dry properly in the coming weeks.

In the central-western region of Daloa, the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro and in the southern region of Divo – where rainfall was below the five-year average – farmers said crops were not as risky because the foliage was very green and the branches laden with pods of all sizes.

“The harvests will be good. The weather is cloudy and we think it will rain in the next few days,” said Florent Dje, who farms near Daloa, where 4.5 millimeters (mm) fell last week, or 20.4mm below average.

Rainfall was above average in the western region of Soubré, the southern region of Agboville and the eastern region of Abengourou, where some farmers said they feared the persistent wetness would favor the disease.

“It is raining heavily at the moment. If there is not enough sunshine, it could attract insects and fungi, [but] so far so good,” said Kouassi Kouame, who farms near Soubré, where 57mm fell last week, 17.8mm above average.

Average temperatures ranged from 26.5 to 30 degrees Celsius last week.

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Louise Heavens)

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