KOREAGUI, Ivory Coast (AP) — For more than 40 years, Jean Baptiste Saleyo has grown cocoa on several acres of his family’s land in Ivory Coast, a West African country that produces nearly half the world’s supply of the raw ingredient used in chocolate bars .
But this year, Saleyo says the rains have become unpredictable and he fears his crop could again fall victim to climate change.
“When it was supposed to rain, it didn’t, it didn’t rain,” Saleyo said, inspecting the ripeness of one of his cocoa beans. “It’s raining now, but it’s already too late.”
Cocoa farming employs nearly 600,000 farmers here in Côte d’Ivoire, eventually supporting nearly a quarter of the country’s population — about 6 million people, according to the Coffee-Cocoa Council.
And according to official figures, it makes up about 15% of Ivory Coast’s national GDP.
National production remains on track as the amount of land being worked increases. But experts say small-scale farmers are in pain this year. In order for the cocoa tree to bloom well, the rain must come at the right times in the growth cycle. If you come at the wrong times, you risk crop disease.
Some who are used to producing 500 kilograms are looking at just 200 kilograms this year, said Jean Yao Brou, secretary general of the cooperative Anouanze, which helps farmers market their crops.
“Our producers are very concerned about production,” he says.