Farm workers extract cocoa beans from cocoa fruit in Ahouatoue village, north of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. Cocoa traded in London climbed in the final quarter for each of the past three years. Demand may gain 3.3 percent to 3.69 million metric tons in the 2007-08 season. The Ivory Coast is the largest grower of cocoa in Africa. Photographer: Naashon Zalk/Bloomberg News

Reuters Abidjan

Steadily improving rainfall across Ivory Coast’s main cocoa growing regions last week is boosting prospects for a strong mid-crop harvest, with some farmers yesterday even predicting an early start to next season’s main crop.

The world’s top cocoa producer is currently harvesting beans from its April-to-September mid-crop, and port arrivals are currently outpacing last year’s record crop of around 1.74 million tons, according to exporters.

Most farmers think that supply from plantations upcountry will pick up sharply next month.

In the western region of Soubre, in the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported 37mm of rainfall, compared with 58.5mm the previous week.

“Things are going well. We’re seeing more and more beans coming out of the bush,” said Soubre farmer Salam Kone. “With the flowers and cherelles (small pods) that are still appearing, it’s possible that the next main crop could start early.”

Ivory Coast’s cocoa main crop, the larger of its two harvests, runs from October to March.

In the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the high quality of its beans, farmers said that, after a worrying start to the mid-crop, they were now satisfied with the weather conditions and were expecting harvesting to pick up next month.

In the centre-western regions of Daloa, responsible for a quarter of Ivory Coast’s national output, plantations struggled with a lack of rainfall earlier in the season. But farmers have now reported abundant showers for three consecutive weeks. – Reuters