Growing conditions in West Africa’s cocoa-growing areas are straying from mid-crop historical trends, raising the prospect of a stronger than expected crop. This is despite expectations of lower production in No. 2 producer Ghana, due to cocoa swollen shoot virus outbreaks and the Ghanaian cedi’s decline against the US dollar, which put fertilizer costs out of some producers’ reach.
The region’s 2021/2022 cocoa growing season ended on September 30 with a global deficit of 306,000 tonnes and a record low stocks-to-grindings ratio of 31.9%, marking the first time in six years that grindings surpassed production.
Despite the Ghana Cocoa Board’s estimate for Ghanaian production sitting at just 750,000 tonnes, 11.3% lower than the 10-year average, hopes are high for the rest of Africa's producers. Current growing conditions in Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, and Nigeria - which combined represent about 57% of global cocoa production - are sending positive signals for this season as the region’s November through March dry season gets underway.
Across Africa’s major cocoa-growing regions, Gro data is showing that this year’s mid-crops are enjoying better growing conditions than previous years. The Gro Drought Index (GDI), which includes data inputs such as temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture, shows drought levels are below the 10-year average in top producer Côte d'Ivoire and significantly lower in the continent’s other cocoa-growing regions compared with this time last year.
For the last five years, each of West Africa’s dry seasons - when the arid, harmattan winds blow through the region from the Sahara Desert - have been progressively drier. Peak drought in West Africa’s cocoa-growing regions was reached in February 2022, ending with above-average rainfall last March.
In the first half of December, the region’s weekly rainfall totals were well above average, and while there has been only one day of rain so far this month and very little is in the forecast, historical data suggests rainfall levels typically begin to increase in February and rise incrementally through March. West African countries harvest their mid-crop from April through September.