-CCC@ (Refiles to clarify quote in final paragraph)
ABIDJAN, March 21 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's mid-crop cocoa output is expected to drop 23 percent this season due to insufficient rain and poorly kept fields, a senior source at the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) said on Wednesday.
The lack of rain from November to March in most production areas stunted pod development and reduced the survival rate of cherelles and flowers during hot weather at the beginning of the year, pod counters told Reuters.
"Our counting teams finished their work last week and according to their results we should produce a maximum of 400,000 tonnes of cocoa during the (April-September mid-crop) this year compared to 520,000 tonnes last year," said the senior CCC source.
Four pod counters interviewed by Reuters had similar estimates following a review of the crop, if the rain improves towards the end of the harvest. They estimated a mid-crop between 380,000 and 400,000.
The farmgate price of cocoa beans for the mid-crop will be between 600 and 650 CFA francs ($1.13 to $1.22) per kilogramme, down from 700 CFA francs last season, a second source at the CCC told Reuters, reflecting lower prices earlier in the season.
"We sold the majority (of the mid crop export contracts) to the middleman when the market was still low so we cannot set a price higher than 600 or 650 FCFA/kg," the source said.
($1 = 531.0000 CFA francs) (Reporting By Ange Aboa Writing by Edward McAllister Editing by Aaron Ross and Susan Fenton)