Early rains brings relief to Cameroon cocoa farmers

YAOUNDE Feb 13 (Reuters) – Farmers in Cameroon’s main cocoa growing regions said on Monday that abundant rains in the past week have raised hopes of a better mid-crop harvest after a long dry spell coupled with pests attacks that threatened crop output.

Farmers in the Centre and South West regions of the world’s fifth largest producer said the rains have enabled flowers to grow on trees and blossom, signalling a potential bumper crop.

Cameroon’s production hit a record 240,000 tonnes in 2010/11 with the Cocoa Development Company (SODECAO) expecting it to rise to 250,000 tonnes in 2011/12. However exports have lagged in the season so far.

“It rained heavily three times last week and my plants have started flowering, raising hope of a bumper mid-crop harvest,” said Emmanuel Nguile who farms near Bafia in the Centre region.

Nguile said the rains will lay to rest farmers fears of an impending disaster after their farms were hit by capsid bugs and caterpillars which attack trees, feed on the young branches and cause crop loss, following the prolonged dry spell.

Farmers in other growing regions also reported heavy rainfall in the past week.

The rainy season in most of Cameroon’s main cocoa growing regions usually runs from mid-March to mid-October, with a two to three week rainy period in December.

This year however, there was no rain in December. The rains which have come a month earlier than expected in March, will moisten the earth and enable the trees to begin developing, farmers said.

Cocoa is a leading cash crop in Cameroon, accounting for about 80 percent of the country’s output. It generated close to 300 billion CFA francs ($603.19 million) in revenues in 2010/11.

The cocoa season normally runs from August 1 to July 31, with the main crop harvest from October to February and a smaller mid-crop harvest from April to July. There have been variations in recent years due to changes in the climate.

($1 = 497.3520 CFA francs) (Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Jason Neely)

reuters

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