A strong Harmattan wind blowing last week across most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions raised concern over damage to the crop amid a tightness of supply elsewhere, farmers said.
The Harmattan is a dusty, dry wind from the Sahara that usually prevails from December to March. When severe it can kill small cocoa pods and sap soil moisture, reducing the size of beans.
In the centre-west region of Daloa, which produces one quarter of Ivory Coast's output, farmers reported no rain and a strong Harmattan wind. "The weather is very dry with too much dust. Lots of leaves are starting to fall from the trees," said Raphael Kouadio, who farms on the outskirts of Daloa. "If the wind continues this strong the harvest season could be shortened."
In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported no rainfall, compared with 18 millimeters of rainfall the previous week.
"Cocoa flowers and pods are falling. If the intensity of the Harmattan does not diminish there will be lots of damage in the plantations," said Lazare Ake, who farms near Soubre, adding that there might not be enough beans after January. In the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans, farmers said the Harmattan remained strong.
Similar growing conditions were reported in the southern region of Aboisso and in the western region of Bouafle.