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Abundant rains return in Ivory Coast cocoa regions

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Above average rainfall was recorded in Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions last week, raising expectations for a strong finish of the April-to-September mid-crop cocoa harvest, farmers said on Monday.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower, is in the middle of its March-to-November rainy season when downpours are abundant. Farmers need a mix of heavy rainfall and sunny spells to grow cocoa.

Farmers welcomed last week’s rains after more than a month of dry conditions, saying that the downpour will strengthen crops for a significant harvest from mid-August.

But there were concerns over the shortage of buyers, farmers said. Lack of proper storage and drying conditions could hurt the quality of their beans if the heavy rains continue, they added.

Several cocoa cooperatives managers told Reuters that major grinders have reduced their purchases due to power cuts that have hampered operations.

The west African nation is suffering from severe power outages with power rationed to users due to a drop in generation capacity since late-April. This has reduce its grinding capacity.

The cooperative managers said grinders will raise purchases when power supply becomes regular, expected around July.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, and in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, rains were above the average. Farmers said harvesting was tailing off but downpours from last week will reinvigorate trees for new flowering.

Daloa saw 54.1 millimetres (mm) of rain last week, 26.5 mm above the five-year average.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the Ivorian cocoa belt, and in the southern region of Divo, where rains were above the average, farmers said the rains would improve the size of beans to be harvested in about two months.

“If the rains continue, we’ll have sizeable beans in the pods in August,” said Eugene Krou, who farms near Soubre, where 66.5 mm fell last week, 11.5 mm above the average.

In the southern region of Agboville, and in the eastern region of Abengourou, rains were below the average but farmers said the level of soil moisture was sufficient, and the cloudy weather recorded was a sign for more rainfall this week.

Average temperature in the country during the week ranged from 26 to 28.9 degree Celsius.

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