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Cocoa shipments to ports in Côte d’Ivoire are expected to fall by 28.5% year-on-year in the first quarter of the 2023/2024 season due to erratic weather conditions, according to cocoa growers, exporters and pod counters.
The world’s leading producer of the key chocolate ingredient has launched its new harvest season, with the main crop expected between October and March.
Five cocoa exporters, three pod counters and a dozen farmers in the cocoa belt region attributed the slowdown in bean arrivals to lower production expected from farms due to late, heavy rains.
Cocoa crops require regular rainfall accompanied by periods of sunshine. However, the West African region, which includes Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, the main cocoa producers and which together account for around 70% of the world’s supply, is experiencing poor growing conditions.
On several farms in Côte d’Ivoire, the tiny flowers that turn into pods after 22 weeks have not survived the heavy rains. The shells have turned yellow prematurely on the trees, while pods that have already developed have been attacked by brown rot, a fungal disease of cocoa pods.
For the 2022/2023 season, production was around 1.259 million tonnes from October to December.
Analysts fear that the El Niño weather phenomenon will continue to affect production in the 2023/24 season.