Swollen shoot disease worsening in heart of Ivory Coast cocoa belt
By Ange Aboa
SAN PEDRO, Ivory Coast, July 24 (Reuters) - Swollen shoot
disease is worsening in the heart of Ivory Coast's cocoa belt
with some plantations seeing a significant drop in production,
farmers and exporters said on Tuesday.
The viral disease, which typically kills trees within a few
years, first appeared a few years ago in southern and western
Ivory Coast but is now causing serious damage to crops.
Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa grower with annual
production reaching 2 million tonnes last season. About 60
percent of that comes from the south and west.
"That really worries us because before, around 2010-11, I
had harvested four tonnes each year," said Cisse Ousmane, who
owns five hectares near the western town of Soubre. "This year,
I am at 1.8 tonnes."
On his plantation, desiccated trees lie mostly bare. The
disease typically cuts production by a factor of two or three
within four to five years.
Swollen shoot appeared in central Ivory Coast in 2006 and
2007 in the regions of Bouafle, Sinfra and Oumé. According to
the authorities, more than 70 percent of plantations in the
region were infected causing production on those plantations to
decrease by about 60 percent between 2009 and 2017.
One exporter based in the commercial capital of Abidjan said
that while the drop in production on plantations in central
Ivory Coast was offset by rising production in protected
forests, a recent government crackdown on illegal cultivation
means output could now be down from last year's record crop.
"This disease scares us," said Sidibe Kante, a planter near
the southern town of Meagui. "It is starting to spoil our
production but we cannot do anything."
Ivory Coast's cocoa board announced plans earlier this year
to uproot 300,000 hectares of infected trees over the next three
years in an effort to curb the outbreak's spread.
(Editing by Aaron Ross, editing by David Evans)
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