La Nina

UNPREDICTABLE RAINFALL ACROSS CÔTE D’IVOIRE

The world’s leading producer of cocoa is experiencing uneven levels of precipitation during the current dry season, which runs from November through to March.

Côte d’Ivoire doesn’t usually see much rainfall during this period, but current reports are showing a significant difference in rain across the country. In the southwestern region of Soubre, they received 12.7mm of rain last week, 1.1mm up from the 5-year average. Travel slightly north of Soubre however, to Daloa and only 0.6mm of rain fell, 3.6mm below the 5-year average.

Such conditions are typical of a La Niña weather pattern that tends to bring higher levels of precipitation to West Africa and has historically resulted in greater cocoa yields.

In the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins, El Niño’s counterpart, La Niña, alters rainfall patterns. The weather is the result of a phenomenon in which abnormally strong trade winds move warm surface waters of the equatorial Pacific west

Climate42 commented on the impact that the weather phenomenon could have on West African cocoa:

These La Niña conditions should have a positive, though only subtle impact on cocoa trees in West Africa, lowering the chances of extremely hot weather in the late part of the main dry season, right when the trees need it the most.

For cocoa farmers in south and east Côte d’Ivoire however, the weather was not so kind, with levels of rainfall reportedly below average. Farmers in these regions are still remaining optimistic though, telling local media that the soil’s moisture content remains high, with plenty of pods ready for harvest in January.

Despite this, production is still at risk of suffering at the hands of the seasonal Harmattan wind, which is strongest from December through to March. The Harmattan is a cool dry wind that blows from Western Sahara, producing a steep drop in humidity, and threatening to dry out the land. Reuters interviewed Parfait Sohoun, a farmer from the Daloa region of Côte d’Ivoire, who expressed his concerns when he said;

It’s hot and the Harmattan has started. The farms need two good rains before the end of the year.

While current yields are indeed promising, whether this success can be sustained is largely dependent on how climate conditions develop over the coming months.

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