Ivory Coast floods threaten the cocoa crop, the main ingredient used in making chocolates

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 1:48am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 1:48am

Flooding on cocoa plantations in top grower Ivory Coast has prevented farmers from working and killed off flowers and small pods, which could reduce the size of the upcoming main crop harvest of the main ingredient used in making chocolates, farmers and exporters said.

Wet weather has already cut into the last phase of the April-to-September mid-crop, but until this week prospects for the October-to-March main crop were bright, directors of several major export companies said. Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer of cocoa, a bean that is ground and used to make chocolates.

Heavy rains at the weekend in the southwestern San Pedro and Soubre regions, which account for 30 to 40 per cent of national output, soured that outlook as streams overflowed and flowers and pods in early stages of growth were destroyed, they said.

“Everything collapsed this weekend with the torrential rains in the southwest,” the director of a European export company said. “All the excellent prospects we had seen in May and June, and which should have been confirmed in July, are dead.”

Officials from four major export companies told Reuters they were concerned the main crop could be severely diminished in the southwest and other parts of the west.

One estimated that between 60 and 70 per cent of flowers and small pods in the affected regions had been killed. “Our pod-counting team is alarmed at what they have seen in the southwest. Thousands of plantations are flooded,” he said.

In some areas, the water is up to one metre high. Another concern is that the moisture in the air will cause beans to rot.

“I have never seen this since I’ve been here,” said Idrissa Youbare, who has owned a cocoa plantation in the San Pedro region for over 30 years. “All of my 10 hectares of cocoa are under water and we can’t work in it. There is no solution.”