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Ivory Coast rain helps early growth of cocoa main crop, farmers say

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Heavy rain last week in most of Ivory Coast's cocoa-growing regions will boost the development of the next October-to-March main crop, farmers said on Monday.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, is in its rainy season which runs from April to mid-November.

Farmers said they expected the April-to-September mid-crop to finish strong, with a significant volume of pods to be harvested from mid-August to late September.

The weather now will help determine the size of the upcoming main crop, which has started to flower. Regular rain will be needed next month to trigger more flowering and help the season start off strong, farmers said.

"It rained a lot here this week. Flowers are beginning to appear on the trees," said Olivier Boka, who farms in the southern region of Agboville, where 103.2 mm of rain fell last week, 39.7 mm above the five-year average. 

Farmers made similar comments in the eastern region of Abengourou, where 82.7 mm of rain fell last week, 26.1 mm above the average. 

Rain was also above average in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro.

In the western region of Soubre, the southern region of Divo and the centre-western region of Daloa, where rains were below average last week, farmers said more rain would be needed next month to strengthen the development of the main crop. 

"Flowering has started but we need more rain in July for the main crop harvest to be abundant," said Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre, where 24.7 mm of rain fell last week, 32.4 mm below the average.

Average temperatures ranged from 25 to 27 degrees Celsius in Ivory Coast last week.  

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Alison Williams)

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