Ivorian cocoa exporters have been rejecting more than half of bean deliveries in recent weeks due to poor quality caused by lack of rain, exporters and processors said on Tuesday.
The November-to-March dry season in the world's top cocoa producer has been hotter and dryer than usual this year, with many parts of the country still waiting for rain. Lack of moisture causes cocoa beans to become small and acidic.
The dry weather has damaged the last stage of the October-to-March main crop and some farmers fear it could also impact the upcoming mid-crop, which runs from April to September.
Reuters spoke to 11 exporters and grinders at the main ports of Abidjan and San Pedro, some of whom said they had turned down more than half beans received since January.
"Cocoa of this quality is not exportable. We are refusing on average 50% of deliveries because of this," said an exporter from a European company based in San Pedro.
Free Fatty Acids Content
In some shipments, beans are arriving with a free fatty acids (FFA) content of 5% or 6%, far above the standard of 1.75% accepted for international exports, said the commercial director of an export company based in Abidjan.
Beans were also smaller and lower in butter content.
Exporters said it now took 140 and 150 beans to make 100 grams, compared to between 90 and 106 in previous years.
Farmers in Ivory Coast's cocoa-growing regions, mainly the southwest, west and centre-west, said they were concerned delayed rains would also affect bean quality for the start of the mid-crop.
"There is nothing we can do. It is not raining and the pods are tiny," said Achile Kouassi Kobenan, who farms eight hectares of cocoa in San Pedro.
Both exporters and grinders said they expect poor bean quality to persist for the first two-three months of the mid-crop.
Good quality beans should be expected by July or August, said the commercial director of a European export company.
"It is impossible to sell these poor quality beans on the international market. They will be ground and consumed locally," said the director of another export company in Abidjan.