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Ivory Coast rains bode well for cocoa but fears loom

ABIDJAN - Rain in much of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions bode well for the quality of beans next year despite concerns about the incoming dry Harmattan wind, farmers and analysts said Monday.

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A farmer walks in a village built inside the protected Gouin-Debe forest in Blolequin department, western Ivory Coast. IVORYCOAST-COCOA/ENVIRONMENT REUTERS/Luc Gnago

ABIDJAN - Rain in much of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions bode well for the quality of beans next year despite concerns about the incoming dry Harmattan wind, farmers and analysts said Monday.

The world's top cocoa producer is in the dry season, which stretches from mid-November to March, so downpours are rare and light.

The Harmattan, a dusty dry wind that typically rolls southward from the Sahara from December to March, can jeopardize crop development by snapping cocoa pods and slurping up soil moisture.

An Abidjan-based agrometerologist said the wind was currently in Ivory Coast's north and continuing downward.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported 48 millimetres of rains this week, compared with about 36 mm over the previous period.

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Lazare Ake, who farms in Soubre's outskirts, said good rains had been welcome for trees during the dry season.

"We are in a good place to have a lot of quality beans after December but it requires the Harmattan not to be very strong," said Ake.

Similar conditions were reported in the southern regions of Agboville, Divo and Tiassale, and in the coastal regions of San Pedro and Sassandra.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast's national output, farmers reported no rainfall this week.

Near Daloa, farmer Gervais Kobenan said harvests were strong and the warm weather had been good for drying beans, but concern over the Harmattan lingered.

"If it (the Harmattan) is very strong, there will be damages because many of the flowers on the trees will fall, reducing harvests," said Kobenan.

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