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Variable rains, Harmattan winds touch Ivory Coast's cocoa regions

ABIDJAN - Rainfall and the strength of the dry Harmattan winds were uneven last week in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions, leading to high hopes in some areas and concerns over bean quality and size elsewhere, farmers said on Monday.

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ABIDJAN - Rainfall and the strength of the dry Harmattan winds were uneven last week in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions, leading to high hopes in some areas and concerns over bean quality and size elsewhere, farmers said on Monday.

The dry season in the world's top cocoa producer has been compounded by the dry dusty winds of the Harmattan, which sweeps from the Sahara in December through March. The winds can ravage pods and slurp soil moisture when severe, making beans smaller.

In the center-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast's national output, farmers reported no rainfall and a strong Harmattan wind last week.

Farmer Albert N'Zue said it was very warm with strong Harmattan winds this week, drying up leaves.

"If the Harmattan continues like this for two weeks, the farmers will have little cocoa to sell after January and the quality will be bad," said Nโ€™Zue. 

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Similarly in the western region of Duekoue, farmers reported no rain. Amara Kone, who farms on Duekoue's outskirts, said the main crop would end early if the Harmattan's intensity and the lack of rain continued.

"There are risks that many of the flowers will die if it continues like this," said Kone.

In the western region of Soubre in the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported no rain, compared with 7 mm last week.

But Lazare Ake, who farms in the outskirts of Soubre, said the trees were in good shape because Harmattan winds had decreased in intensity.

"There is a lot of fog in the mornings," said Ake. "That can help many young pods develop if the Harmattan is not strong."

Meanwhile, in the southern region of Divo farmers reported abundant rains that would boost growing conditions.

Amadou Diallo, who farms on the outskirts of Divo, said there were many large flowers on the trees.

"The planters are happy," said Diallo. "It is very warm and this rain is going to help us continue to have quality beans into January and February."

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Good rainfalls and good growing conditions were also reported in the western region of Issia.

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