Ivory Coast exporters have been rejecting more than half of drought-affected cocoa beans due to poor quality, exporters and processors were reported as saying by Reuters.

The November to March dry season in the world’s top cocoa producer had been hotter and dryer than usual this year, with lack of rain still affecting many parts of the country, the 15 March report said.

Lack of moisture caused cocoa beans to become small and acidic. With the dry weather causing damage to the last stage of the October to March main crop, some farmers feared it could also impact the upcoming mid-crop, which ran from April to September, the report said.

Of the 11 exporters and grinders that Reuters interviewed at the main ports of Abidjan and San Pedro, some said they had turned down more than half the beans received since January.

“Cocoa of this quality is not exportable. We are refusing on average 50% of deliveries because of this,” an exporter from a European company based in San Pedro said.

In some shipments, beans have arrived with a free fatty acid (FFA) content of 5% or 6%, far above the standard of 1.75% accepted for international exports, according to the commercial director of an export company based in Abidjan.

Beans were also smaller and lower in cocoa butter content, Reuters wrote, with exporters saying it now took 140 and 150 beans to make 100 grammes, compared to between 90 and 106 in previous years.

Farmers in Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions - mainly the southwest, west and centre-west - were concerned delayed rains would also affect bean quality for the start of the mid-crop, the report said.

Exporters and grinders both said they expected poor bean quality to persist for the first 2-3 months of the mid-crop.

Good quality beans should be expected by July or August, the commercial director of a European export company said.