The latest NOAA satellite data is yielding some interesting observations for weather across West Africa in both the short and long term. Specifically, we have seen a significant cooling in the equatorial Pacific region consistent with potential development of La Niña later this year. Temperatures have already cooled by half a degree Celsius and are projected to gradually cool further over the coming months, potentially reaching the threshold for an ENSO event by late fall, as forecast by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. ENSO events are global climate events with complex worldwide circulation patterns.
In addition, we have also seen a rapid cooling of surface temperatures just off the coast of West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea in recent months.
One of these events will likely have a more immediate and short-term effect, and the other, less understood, could have a longer-reaching impact into 2021. Ocean surface temperatures are directly linked to the amount of evaporation, forming clouds and eventually precipitation once the system moves inland and cools as warm air rises. So it would make sense that a rapid cooling in waters adjacent to the major cocoa growing belt of Africa may result in an anticipated drier pattern as we enter the little dry season in Ivory Coast and Ghana. Lack of rain during this period may be beneficial for bean drying and transport of cocoa from up-country to the major ports. However, below-normal rainfall during the critical pod set and development phase of the 2020/21 main crop could result in lower yields, so the market will need to keep abreast of precipitation from June through August.
The cooling of equatorial Pacific and potential development of a La Niña event later this year is not as straight forward, however. Although La Niñas are considered favorable to cocoa production globally, the mechanics behind it are less understood. Historically, the positive effect of a La Niña on cocoa crops is less pronounced than the corresponding negative effects of an El Niño event.
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