By Nathan Gill
(Bloomberg) — Ecuador, the world’s biggest grower of flavored beans used in fine chocolate, will probably lose about 15 percent of this year’s cocoa crop after heavy rains hurt farms in the Andean nation’s coastal region, the National Cocoa Exporters Association said.
Anecacao, as the association is known, reduced its 2015 forecast to about 230,000 metric tons from a January estimate of 260,000 tons to 280,000 tons, Ivan Ontaneda, the group’s president, said Wednesday by telephone from Guayaquil. Heavier-than-normal rains since April have hurt the mid-year harvest and are damaging flowers on trees expected to bear fruit beginning in September, he said.
The bad weather in Ecuador comes on top of problems in West Africa, where floods in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s top cocoa producers, are blocking roads and leaving cocoa pods rotting on the trees.
“We’re worried about the weather,” said Ontaneda, who’s also the chief executive officer of Guayaquil-based cocoa exporter Eco-Kakao SA. “Right now, because of the rains that we’ve had, a lot of the flowers on the cocoa trees have fallen, which means that the main crop will also be reduced by an important amount.”
About 30 percent to 40 percent of crops in Ecuador’s coastal province of El Oro are affected, Ontaneda said. In Los Rios province, about 15 percent to 20 percent of cocoa trees are damaged and in the northern province of Esmeraldas as much as 20 percent of the crop has been affected, he said. Ecuador’s main harvest begins in September and continues through March.
Growers, which produced about 245,000 tons of the beans last year, are still monitoring the El Nino weather pattern and are preparing for a moderate to severe impact, Ontaneda said. Ecuador exports about 95 percent of the cocoa it produces, he said.
El Nino has the potential to affect weather and harvests around the globe by baking parts of Asia, dumping rain across South America and bringing cooler summers to North America.
Sea-surface temperature indexes for the central and eastern tropical Pacific are more than 1 degree Celsius above average for a sixth week, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. Models showed the central Pacific will warm further over the coming months, according to the bureau.