UPDATE 1-I.Coast new cocoa season arrivals up 5.6 pct

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(Adds exporters comments)

par Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Cocoa arrivals at ports in top grower Ivory Coast rose 5.6 percent to reach around 21,000 tonnes by Oct. 9, exporters estimated on Monday, compared with 19,880 tonnes in the same period of the previous season.

Exporters' estimates showed that around 21,000 tonnes of beans were delivered to the West African state's two ports of Abidjan and San Pedro between Oct. 1 and Oct. 9 up from 19,880 tonnes in the same week a year ago.

Some exporters said that up to about 40,000 tonnes of beans could have made it to the ports if farmers had not held back on some of their beans in the hope of getting a better price.

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"We should have received much more than the 21,000 tons for the first nine days of the new season but with some farmers deciding to hold onto their cocoa since the beginning of the harvest, this is the maximum we could hope for," a director of an Abidjan-based export agency said.

"We hope that this situation will not drag on for long because the quality of the beans may suffer," he said.

A cocoa export commercial agent in Abidjan said the same scenario was played out every year with farmers withholding their beans for the first two to three weeks in the hope of getting a better price from buyers.

"I believe that without them doing this, we could very easily have had over 40,000 tonnes at the ports in the first week, but the situation is expected to return to normal within a week or less," said the agent who also asked not to be named.

A director at an export firm at the port of San Pedro said farmers were asking for 1,000 CFA francs ($2.057) per kg, which he said was not realistic.

"Farmers want the middlemen to pay the reference price of about 1,100 CFA per kg which is not possible. We paid between 800 and 815 FCFA in the port last week, so it is impossible to pay 1,000 francs. That is not even realistic," the director said.

Buyers are offering farmers between 650 to 725 CFA francs per kg depending on the region and quality of cocoa.

"I do not think the farmers will hold out for that long. I do not think that they have they means hold out for 10 to 15 days. I think they will start freeing up the cocoa by the end of the week," said another director at an export firm in Abidjan.

"My concern is more on the quality of the beans stocks than on anything else," he said.

The director who also requested not to be named, said with good crop expected after a record harvest in the 2010/11 season, arrival volumes could average 50,000 tonnes once farmers start supplying, and even hit 60,000 tonnes between November and December.

($1 = 486.182 CFA Francs)

(Writing by Bate Felix)

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