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Ivory Coast weather offers mixed prospects for cocoa mid-crop

ABIDJAN, March 25 (Reuters) - Above-average rainfall in Ivory Coasts key cocoa regions last week will boost the April-September mid-crop, but dry spells in the country's center have raised concerns, farmers said on Monday.

Ivory Coast, the worlds top cocoa producer, is entering the rainy season, which runs from mid-March to late October.

"Rainfall will be more abundant in the coastal and southern regions starting in April," a government meteorologist told Reuters. He declined to be identified as he was not allowed to disclose the information.

Farmers said plenty of big pods on trees were ripe and should make for a healthy harvest in April and May, and that a good rainfall this week would help the crop.

Current deliveries from the bush contained large quantities of small beans, farmers said. Buyers and exporters were seeking the removal of small beans before sale, they added.

In the western region of Soubre, farmers said many pods would be harvested in the first half of April before a small break for Easter.

"Many farmers are harvesting at the moment. They hope the mid-crop price will stay at 750 CFA francs ($1.3) per kilogram," said Koffi Kouame, who farms near Soubre.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre, including the regions of Sassandra and San Pedro, was at 23.3 millimeters (mm) last week, 8.2 mm above the five-year average.

Rainfall last week in the southern regions of Agboville and Divo and in the eastern region of Abengourou was above average.

Farmers there said good-quality beans would emerge if the rain continued next month.

In the center-western region of Daloa, which produces a quarter of national output, farmers said they were hoping for abundant rains to improve the crop.

"We hope it will start raining enough this week to save the mid-crop," said Albert NZue, who farms near Daloa.

Data showed rainfall in Daloa, which includes the region of Bouafle, was at 9.5 mm last week, 7.6 mm below the five-year average.

Rainfall was below average in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, and in the western region of Man. Farmers there said it was too early to be pessimistic about the outlook.

Average temperatures ranged between 27.9 and 30.6 degrees Celsius. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Dale Hudson)